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Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
April 22, 1990     Arkansas Catholic
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April 22, 1990
 

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PAGE 7 ARKANSAS CATHOLIC APRIL 22, 1990 "8cheper," from page 1 eese of Wichita," Msgr. Scheper explains. "He had studied in Little Rock." So off he went again, this time to study in Little Rock. He en- rolled in Little Rock College in September, 1925, to study English "While teaching Ger- man," and entered St. John's ' Home Missions Seminary the next year. "I came to Arkansas to go to the missions," h~ sal s e " "At r mpnatically. kansas was a terri- tory where there were iiiiil iii no Catholics. I came Former Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Graves (L) and here to work in the Bishop Andrew J. McDonald (R) congratulate Msgr. r issions. But Bishop Scheper upon his 50th anniversary of ordination in Morris had a different 1980. ltlea,~ says. "It was my greatest joy. I always ~cl~ishop Morris sent the young priest Catholic University in Washington, a to study theology. After two years, ar shorter time span than average ~r SUch work, he left with a PhD in acred Theology. Back in Little Rock, he taught semi- ~ary StUdents and found himself ap- Vice Chancellor and a Supreme of the Matrimonial Court. He was named the first Director of the of Christian Doctrine. I wanted something to do with !Salvation of souls,, he says, his voice the chaplain of St. Vincent (now Medical Center) died, appointed Msgr. Scheper to Post. It was a job he would keep 1938 until 1946, in addition to as Chancellor, carrying out his duties and keeping up with "I responsibilities. visited every patient every day," he (L) enjoys a laugh asked the patients where they were from, and what religion they were. You know, 80 to 85 percent of the people in Arkansas would be Catholic if we had Catholic churches for them." Msgr. Scheper recalls ministering to a French-speaking man whose family had fallen away fromthe Church. The family lived in a small Arkansas town. "He lived in a big home with a large porch," Msgr. Scheper recalls. "There was a funeral there, so we had Mass on the porch. The whole town was there. There were people looking in through the porch. Many of them made the sign "I wanted something to do with the salvation of souls." of the cross. I asked those people to stay after the burial at the cemetery. About 50 people stayed, They had all been Catholics. I arranged to say Mass every two weeks in that home." Continuing with his duties, Msgr. Scheper in 1941 was named Papal Chamberlain and in 1944 was named Domestic Prelate, with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. A May 5, 1944, issue of The Guardian (predecessor to the Arkansas Catholic) reported that "due to the war and mailing restrictions, the Cardinal Sec- retary of State notified the Delegate of Washington via radiogram that the Holy Father had graciously acceded" to Bishop Morris' request for Msgr. Scheper's elevation. More than titles, however, Msgr. Scheper wanted "to go to the missions." In 1946, the pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Little Rock died, and on the day of the funeral, Bishop Morris came up to Msgr. Scheper, and said: "Get yourself a cigar - let's talk." "The priests had been calling him, wanting an appointment to Good Counsel," Msgr. Scheper laughs. "I said: Already? He isn't even buried yet.'" Ralph Bauer at a reception After a bit of small talk, Msgr. Scheper Msgr. Scheper's on his quipped to the bishop: "Maybe I should ry of ordination. .......... throw my hat in the ring." The bishop sat up in his chair. "Would you like to have it?" In September, 1946, 20 years after entering the seminary, the priest had his first parish. "The bishop wanted me to keep teaching, but I said Nol" Msgr. Scheper laughs. "I longed for pastoral work." Good Counsel, he says, %vas not an easy parish." It was a "little frame church" with about 200 persons who worshiped alongside open gas stoves in the winter. "I had to build another church," he says, "but we had no money to do much of anything. A whole year's income [for the church] was $15,000. Every month, I had to determine which bills to pay and which to put aside." One Sunday, however, he told his parishioners that "silver makes noise in those wire collection baskets, but bills are quiet." The next Sunday's collec- tion doubled. Msgr. Scheper and the parish also built a school, in 1955, a gymnasium, cafeteria and a convent. "I had borrowed $100,000 to build the church and had paid it off in eight "Every month, I had to determine which bills to pay and which to put aside." years, so I went to the man and said I needed $300,000 for the school," he recalls. "What?" said the man. "I need $300,000," said Msgr. Scheper. "What do you have for collateral?" "Nothing." "Well, your credit is good. I'll give it to you." And so, Msgr. Scheper built his school. "There were many nights I didn't sleep a wink," because of worry, he says. "I suffered from bleeding ulcers, and asked Bishop [Albert L.] Fletcher if I could leave." On Jan. 26, 1971, he took the chaplain's post at St.Joseph's Home for Children, an orange-roofed orphanage perched atop a tall hill in North Little Rock. In the late 1970s, however, a combi- nation of circumstances, including government pressure to move homeless children out of the orphanage and into foster or adoptive homes, caused St. Joseph's to evolve from an orphanage to a day care center. "They cried bitter tears when they left here," says Msgr. Scheper of the chil- dren there. "Some of the placements worked out, some didn't. Some [foster or adoptive parents] were using them as slaves." Today, St.Joseph's is a pre-school for children ages two through five. "We have 65 kids every day," says Msgr. Scheper, smiling. "They are pre- cious, as friendly as can be." For the same reasons he likes chil- dren and pastoral duties, Msgr. Scheper loathes administration. "We have too many organizations," he says. "Pastors should be pastors. But there are meetings here, 1here, every- where. That's a tremendous mistake." Lay people, too, have too much to do, and often neglect their families and parishes, he says. "We need to get back to some of the old-time...." He doesn't finish his sen- tence. As I get up to leave Msgr. Scheper's apartment, I notice that the time show- ing on his backwards-running clock is exactly the same as the time on my forward-running 1990 wristwatch. I Everyone is invited to celebrate Msgr. John B. Scheper's 60th anni- versary of ordination at Our Lady of Good Council Church, 1300 S. Jackson St., Little Rock, on Satur- day, April 28. Bishop Andrew J. McDonald will be the homilist for the 10 AM Mass. A reception will follow. planned for Good Counsel Little Rock - A Light to the Nations Prayer Group will sponsor a three-evd- ning mission at Our Lady of Good Counsel church. The "Journey into Scripture" mission will be conducted by Tom Edwards, a nationally-known lay Catholic evangelist from the Diocese of St. Augustine, FL. On April 29, he-will speak on "The Personal Touch" at 6 PM; on April 30, on "Personal Evangelism" at 7 PM; on May 1, on "Forgiveness and Prayer for Healing" at 7 PM. For additional information contact Mary Lynch, 565-0702, or AI Saucier, 847-4265. It's Time to reach fellow Catholics, Advertise your business in PARISHIONER AT WORK. It's easy...Irs not expensive and It works, Call Ron Hall for details, 664-0340, ext. 326. ARKANSAS CATHOLIC