Fr. John Schuetze, 54, military chaplain, dies

ALLOUEZ — Fr. John W. Schuetze, 54, died in Middleton Stoney, Oxfordshire, England, on Aug. 27. Fr. Schuetze, a native of Manitowoc, was serving as a chaplain with the U.S. Air Force. He had served in the Air Force since 2008 and earned the rank of captain.

Fr. John Schuetze

He was born on April 16, 1964, in Manitowoc, the son of Wayne and Mary (Logan) Schuetze. He attended St. Boniface School (where he was an altar server and a youth representative on the St. Boniface parish council), Manitowoc Lincoln High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and soil science.

After college, he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Conservation Service in Chippewa Falls and then Calumet County Land and Water Conservation before entering the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Ill. He was ordained on May 17, 1997, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay by Bishop Robert Banks.

After his ordination, Fr. Schuetze was asked about his vision of priesthood. He said, “That we will experience the joys and blessings of God in our daily lives until we see the Lord face to face. The journey begins by accepting all people and helping them to see their infinite possibilities. My method is to see God in all creation and in all people, doing hands-on service with others in a collaborative ministry. I seek to lead others to work for justice and an awareness of the world-wide community.”

Fr. Schuetze’s first assignment after ordination was as parochial vicar of St. Bernard Parish, Appleton. In 1998, he was appointed parochial vicar of St. John Nepomucene Parish, Little Chute, and then St. Pius X Parish, Appleton. In 2005, he was appointed pastor of St. Nicholas Parish, Freedom. He served for a brief time as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Manitowoc, before entering the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to serve as a chaplain.

During his military career, he was stationed at the Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Miss., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Fr. Schuetze was deployed to Iraq, Turkey and the Royal Air Force Base at Croughton, England. He was a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Aeries #706 and the Knights of Columbus Council #710.

In 2010, after serving for six months as the only Catholic chaplain at Joint Base Balad, 40 miles north of Baghdad, Afghanistan, he spoke with The Compass about his chaplaincy while home on leave.

“It was a learning experience,” he said. “The people that I met and the faith and support that they had (was amazing). I got to meet Army people, Navy people. I worked with the general all the way down to the incoming enlisted. That’s one of the benefits of being with the military, you can walk into a soldier’s day and experience whatever they’re doing and learn about it.”

Reception of Fr. Schuetze’s body at St. Francis of Assisi Paris, Waldo site, in Manitowoc, will be by the regional vicar, Fr. Ryan Krueger, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13. Visitation will follow until 7 p.m. and end with a prayer service led by Fr. Daniel Felton, vicar general.

Visitation will continue at the church on Friday morning from 9 a.m. until the funeral liturgy, at 10:30 a.m., with Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau as celebrant, along with priests of the diocese. Fr. Dave Pleier, who was diocesan co-director of vocations when Fr. Schuetze was ordained, will be the homilist. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Manitowoc. Military graveside rites will be accorded by the Grand Forks Air Force Base Honor Guard.

Fr. Schuetze is survived by his mother: Mary (Logan) Schuetze, Manitowoc; two brothers: Paul and Joseph Schuetze, both of Manitowoc; one sister: Angela (Patrick) Katchak, Prospect, Ky.; grandmother: Elaine Schuetze, Manitowoc; aunt: Kris Schuetze; godson: George Katchak IV; nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Wayne Schuetze, and an infant brother.