Those who know Bishop Dennis Schnurr of Duluth, Minn., well, say they were surprised but not shocked to learn that he was appointed the coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati.
The same, however, cannot be said of the archbishop’s own reaction.
“Quite candidly, I was shocked,” said Archbishop Schnurr, who is a native of Hospers in the Diocese of Sioux City. “The apostolic nuncio called me on Sept. 24 and said, ‘I have good news for you, the Holy Father has named you the coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati.’”
His reaction to the apostolic nuncio was that Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, the current archbishop of Cincinnati, as well as Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, who is now a cardinal, “have certainly set some very, very high standards in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I am very humbled to be asked to follow in that line of wonderful, pastoral leadership.”
Archbishop Schnurr will celebrate a Mass of welcome Dec. 7 at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati.
His new assignment will come with great responsibilities. The size of his new Ohio flock, with about 500,000 Catholics, is roughly eight to nine times that in the Duluth Diocese. It is the 26th largest diocese in the country. With the size, come more and larger ministries such as Catholic schools. In the Diocese of Duluth, there are 12 Catholic elementary schools whereas the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has 115 Catholic schools between elementary and secondary institutions.
The good news, noted Archbishop Schnurr, is that as the coadjutor he will be able to learn the ropes about the Archdiocese of Cincinnati directly from Archbishop Pilarczyk as well as “study his administrative and pastoral approach to all of the programs, parishes and schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.”
As coadjutor, he will assist Archbishop Pilarczyk, who will turn 75 in August, and then succeed him upon the head shepherd’s retirement.
Archbishop Schnurr, 60, was ordained to the priesthood on July 20, 1974, at St. Anthony’s Church in Hospers. After graduating from Spalding Catholic High School in Granville, he attended Loras College in Dubuque and then completed seminary studies in Rome.
“I have always said that I very much appreciate the fact that I was born and raised in the Midwest,” said the archbishop, who added that he also appreciates that he has been able to serve as bishop in the Midwest, first in Duluth and now in Cincinnati. He noted that Cincinnati is very much a Midwest region and people. “I am with the people who I know very well. I have great respect for the people of the Midwest because I think the roots of our faith are very deep.”
The coadjutor archbishop’s mother, Eleanor Schnurr of Hospers, said she was “really surprised” to hear the news. She said she has always been proud of her son and believes that he will do a good job in Cincinnati.
While the Holy See made the announcement on Oct. 17, Carolyn Arens of Remsen, one of the archbishop’s five siblings, spoke to him about it for the first time on Oct. 20.
She recalled a phone conversation she had with her brother just minutes earlier the phone interview for this article. Carolyn said, “I told him I am so totally happy for you. I told him I thought it was so special, so great, so wonderful.”
The archbishop’s sister stressed the fact that he is a very humble person. She recalled, “He just said, ‘What can I say?’ And that is so typical of him. He was perfectly happy and content in Minnesota, but he knows if he needs to move on, he will.”
Knowing that her brother is a huge lover of the outdoors and gardening, one of the first things she asked him was about the climate and if he would be able to have a garden. Even while in Washington, D.C., he had a rooftop garden. At first, noted Carolyn, he will reside in an apartment complex but eventually will have his own residential space.
“It’s (the weather) similar to what he had in D.C., so he knows what he will be dealing with,” said Carolyn.
She described her brother as a very family-oriented man.
“We are so proud of him,” said Carolyn.
The archbishop’s siblings and their spouses include: Delores and Marvin Schultes of Hastings, Neb., Carolyn and Larry Arens of Remsen, Richard and July Schnurr of Hospers, Mike Schnurr of Alton and Irene and Scott Foreman of Alton.
The Schultes have a son in the seminary, the archbishop’s nephew, who is studying for priesthood in the Diocese of Lincoln.
A good and holy man
Bishop R. Walker Nickless of Sioux City is confident in Archbishop Schnurr.
“I have known Archbishop Schnurr since our days in seminary together. He is a very competent and holy man. The Diocese of Sioux City rejoices in his new appointment.”
For Msgr. Roger Augustine of Sioux City, who worked closely with then Msgr. Schnurr, he said he was not surprised but was elated to learn the news of his friend’s new appointment. Msgr. Augustine was vicar general when Msgr. Schnurr was chancellor.
“I have always been impressed by his love of the church and I know that this is an honor for him,” he said. “He is deserving of this because of his great work for the larger church – the work that he did here in the diocese, his work in Washington, D.C.”
Msgr. Augustine said Archbishop Schnurr has shown great leadership skills and has a genuine desire to help all people.
“His work as bishop of Duluth has always been inspiring,” said Msgr. Augustine, who mentioned the archbishop’s success with nurturing vocations. The Diocese of Duluth has gained national attention for the number of men discerning vocations to the priesthood.
Father Paul Eisele, pastor at St. Anthony’s in Hospers, said the parish was happy with the archbishop’s appointment to Cincinnati and they extended greetings to him from his home parish.
“The people of Cincinnati are very fortunate to have Bishop Schnurr as their archbishop,” he said.
Father Richard Ball, who resided with the archbishop during his stay at Blessed Sacrament Church in Sioux City in the early 1980s, remembers him well as a great organizer and skilled in finance, but even more than that, he remembers him for his pastoral love of the poor and the needy, especially among the young people.
“There were so many young people who benefited from his generosity and love,” said Father Ball, who is pastor at St. Joseph in Granville.
Gains experience in diocese
Archbishop Schnurr credited the Diocese of Sioux City with providing him with many opportunities that equipped him for the work that he has carried out throughout his priesthood.
After spending three years in parish ministry in Sioux City, he learned the importance of pastoral care. The diocese then sent him for graduate studies, where he earned his doctorate in Canon Law.
“That, certainly, has been a major factor in all of the administrative positions I have held,” he said. “Then, returning from graduate studies, I spent five years in the chancery office there and that’s where I learned a lot of the details associated with the administration of the diocese.”
In turn, the archbishop noted, that helped him in his work on the staff of the papal nuncio to the United States from 1985 to 1989. He was hired by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to oversee the conference’s peace and social justice projects in 1989. As the general secretary of the USCCB from 1995 to 2001, he oversaw a staff of 350 and a budget of $50 million. He became bishop of Duluth in 2001. Today he remains highly active in the USCCB as its treasurer.
“Since I had worked in the chancery office right there in Sioux City, I knew the ways in which we could best assist bishops in their work in dioceses,” said Archbishop Schnurr.
He pointed out that he maintains many close ties in the Diocese of Sioux City.
“Some of the priests, in particular, are very kind. Every year they host an annual barbeque where I can get together with the priests of the diocese,” said the archbishop. “I really appreciate the fraternity that the priests of the diocese have shown me.” The Catholic Globe, Sioux City, IA