He was the ‘real deal’ Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jul. 14, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

When I mentioned to someone that Msgr. Delbert Schmelzer had died, he said, “Monsignor Schmelzer was the real deal.”

I knew just what he meant. Monsignor Schmelzer was a genuine priest who loved the priesthood.

Happy being a priest

In a video produced by the Diocese of Madison Office of Vocations (shared on the Catholic Herald Facebook page), Monsignor Schmelzer says that when he was 14, he heard a talk on the priesthood. He told his mother, “That’s for me.” He added, “I haven’t had one moment of regret or doubt or hesitation since.”

He said that there is nothing that a man can do greater in life than to be a priest, to stand in for Jesus in the sacrifice of the Mass.

Monsignor Schmelzer observed his 60th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood this year. I’ve known him for 43 years of that time, especially in his work with the diocesan office of the Propagation of the Faith.

He directed that office until 2014, even after his retirement from parish work. I say retirement with a smile, because Monsignor Schmelzer helped out at over 80 parishes since he “retired” in 2001. He celebrated an average of four Masses each weekend during many of these last 15 years. “As long as I’m healthy, I enjoy doing what I can,” he told me.

Importance of mission work

In an interview with me in 2014, Monsignor Schmelzer emphasized the importance of mission work in the Church. He observed that the zeal for mission work continues to be stressed by the Church in more recent times.

He noted that the Second Vatican Council in Ad Gentes reminds us that the Church is missionary by its very nature. “Mission is the greatest and holiest work of the Church,” he said.

“Popes have continued to speak of the importance of missionary work,” he said, pointing to Blessed Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis, who has reminded us that all of the faithful are called to be missionaries.

Over the years, Monsignor Schmelzer enjoyed working with the national directors of the mission societies. He started under Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who he said was “very inspiring.”

He also liked attending national conventions, including two in Rome. “It was a wonderful opportunity to meet St. John Paul II in 1981, just two weeks before he was shot. I was able to talk with him, and he told me he remembered giving a talk in Stevens Point.”

Monsignor Schmelzer met again in Rome in 2002 and shook St. John Paul II’s hands, which this time were more shaky with the effects of his Parkinson’s disease apparent.
I also saw Monsignor Schmelzer at events with the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, of which he was a devoted member and our chaplain.

Evangelization in diocese

Monsignor Schmelzer also evangelized right here in the Diocese of Madison. He worked at a number of parishes and kept in touch with people even after he left. He was strong in his faith, but treated everyone with courtesy and respect.

I talked with Monsignor Schmelzer just a week before he died. He was happy to move back to the Bishop O’Connor Center to an apartment at Holy Name Heights. He was looking forward to celebrating 12 noon Mass in the center’s chapel and continuing to help out in parishes.

He will indeed be missed, but we are confident he will be enjoying the peace of Christ in life everlasting.

Well done, good and faithful priest!