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Fr. Dominic Scheerer, OCD

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Father Dominic Scheerer, OCD

By Mila Garcia Glodava

Father Dominic Scheerer, OCD, prior of the Carmelite monastery in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin, turned 73 on Oct. 19. In two years, he will celebrate not only his 75th birthday, but his golden anniversary as a Carmelite priest as well.

This upcoming event has made no other group of people happier than his long-time Filipino friends in the Philippines and around the globe. These Filipinos would like to honor him (and all the other Carmelites who served in the Prelature of Infanta since 1947) with a grand reunion to take place in Infanta, Quezon, in 1997.

"He was a blessing to Infanta," said Thelma Coralde, a retired Infanta school teacher now residing in New York. "He and all the other Carmelite fathers," said Coralde, "have helped many people in the Prelature of Infanta in shaping their vision and faith."

Melecia Garcia, a member of the Legion of Mary in the 1950s and 1960s agrees. "Father Dominic was just like a member of our family," said Garcia, a civil engineer who works and resides in the Washington, D.C. area. "He treated us with kindness; he made us laugh; he made us forget our worries."

Second batch
Ordained June 10, 1947, Philadelphia-native Father Dominic spent 30 years of his priestly life in the Philippines, in the Prelature of Infanta, a 7,189 sq. km. Catholic territory, which included at least 17 towns in Quezon and Aurora provinces. After spending two years of duty in the novitiate, he received the call to go to the Philippines, and left for Manila Oct. 2, 1949. He was the only member of the second batch (the first batch arrived in January 1947) of Carmelite missionaries who went to work in the mission of Infanta, then under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Lipa.

"I did not know what to expect," he said, "when I received my 'obedience' or assignment to go to the Philippines (Carmelites observe the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience)." An older brother, Brother Vincent Scheerer, then 34, happened to be on the first batch, so he had been writing to Father Dominic about their adventures in the missions along the rugged coasts of the Sierra Madre Mountain range.

He recalls one particular letter, however, that was most disturbing. Brother Vincent, who, along with 31-year-old Father Leo McCrudden, was stationed in Baler, Quezon, wrote about one stormy (habagat) evening in July 1948. A fisherman, a parishioner, was lost at sea, and so the Carmelites found themselves involved in the search.

At the pleadings of the fisherman's daughter, Brother Vincent and Father Leo, accompanied by six boys, took a banca to search for the fisherman. Out in the sea, a big wave came, turning their banca over and tossing them all out. "Two of the boys swam ashore and asked for help."

Brother Vincent and two other boys survived; but three drowned, including Father Leo and two boys. Days later, the rescuers found the decomposed bodies of the two boys. "They needed two long bamboo poles to carry the coffins of the two boys because of the stench," said Father Dominic. The rescuers never found the bodies of Father Leo and the fisherman.

Thirty years
This tragic story, however, did not dampen the spirit of the then 27-year-old Carmelite who was ready to conquer the spiritual world in the "boondocks." Actually, "I thought it (Infanta) would be in a sparser area," said Father Dominic. In fact, "there was already a lot going on in there when we got there," he said. "At the time also, the Protestants were making great inroads."

After spending a week in Infanta, Father Dominic was sent to Bordeos, one of three towns on Polillo Island, a 605-sq. km. island east of Infanta on the Pacific Ocean. "It was around Oct. 24, the feast of San Rafael, and the town fiesta," he said. "I went with Father Atanacio Danieletti, an Italian Carmelite, to open a new parish in Bordeos, and stayed there for at least three years." It was also the beginning of a 30-year life in the mission that included assignments in Polillo, Infanta, Palanan, Baler and Maria Aurora.

His time in the Prelature of Infanta, which now has a Catholic population of 237,880 (total population: 278,918), gave Father Dominic many years of memorable experiences. "Seeing a Filipino Carmelite &emdash; Julio Xavier Labayen &emdash; become the bishop of Infanta in 1966 was one of my memorable experiences," he said.

Bishop Labayen and three others &emdash; Father Bernard Ybiernas, Father Eliseus Lopez and Father Anselm Cañonero &emdash; were the first Filipinos to study and be ordained Carmelites under the American Province of Washington.

Father Dominic also remembers some hard times. "My days in Palanan was a rough assignment," he said. "The isolation was hard," even though there were at least two priests assigned to the place at any given time. "Palanan was in the middle of no place, taking at least two days to reach by launch."

Cultural challenges
Then there were the cultural challenges. Partly because Filipinos speak English well, he said, "I was never conversant in Tagalog. We had no language course, which they had later in the mission." Father Dominic remembers preparing his sermons in English during his early years in Bordeos. "I would have one of the school teachers translate them in Tagalog," he said, "then they would teach me how to say the words."

At one of the Masses he celebrated during a town fiesta, Father Dominic said, "Si San Rafael ay patron ng mga bulog (St. Rafael is the patron of monkeys)." He saw the big grin on people's faces but did not know why, until one of the children told him he should have said, "Si San Rafael ay patron ng mga bulag ("St. Rafael is the patron of the blind)." Certainly, "The people were very patient with me," he said.

How did he handle Philippine cuisine? "I didn't mind it really," he said. "Once I got through the culture barrier, it was easy to eat." He remembers the one day he and Brother Vincent decided to try balut (fertilized duck egg). "Once we made up our mind to eat the duck egg," he said. "We just called a balut vendor and bought some. We then sat in the curb, put salt on the balut and ate it. It was not bad really." He also loves dinuguan, but readily admits he never developed a liking for "bagoong."

"He totally immersed himself in the culture," said Coralde, who was active in the parish as a member of the Legion of Mary and, later, as a radio announcer for the prelature's DZJO. Coralde remembers the trips to the barrios during fiestas and how Father Dominic's simplicity and deep faith made an impression on her and at least 10 others who usually accompanied the priests.

"Often accommodations were very minimal," she said, but Father Dominic just went with the flow. "He ate with his hands just like everybody else. You can see that he was really struggling, with the rice dropping all over the place," said Coralde laughing. "But he refused the flatware they gave him. He also did not mind sleeping in one corner of the living room."

Mutual admiration
A typical visit to the barrios also meant baptizing up to 100 children and adults. "He never complained, even in the sweltering heat," said Coralde. "To me, he is not just the messenger, he is the message."

Garcia added, "It was only when I came to the United States that I realized how much the Carmelites have given up as missionaries in the Philippines. In the many trips we had with Father Dominic, he never showed any signs of discomfort over the meager surroundings of the barrios."

It was a mutual admiration between Father Dominic and the Filipino people, especially those from the Prelature. "I have learned a lot from them," he said. "We (the Carmelites) knew that they are not well off financially, but they received us so graciously. We learned from their hospitality. Everybody was friendly."

Missionary spirit
Indeed Father Dominic personified the missionary spirit in the years he was stationed in the Philippines. This is not surprising, considering his family background. The ninth of 10 children, who entered the religious life, Father Dominic did not have to look outside of his family to find inspiration to a life of service in God's vineyard: (1) Bert, the oldest, became Father Hyacinth, OP (deceased); (2) Aloysius became Bishop Louis, OP (he, along with his older brother, served in China for 20 years, after which he served in Pakistan where he died and was buried in front of the Cathedral); (3) Mary became Sister Mary Louis, OP, 85; (4) Gertrude became Sister Gertrude Mary, OP, 83; (5) Louis became Brother Vincent, OCD (deceased; he left the order to marry); (6) Rita became Sister Mary Anthony, OP, 79 (now called Sister Rita); (7) Joseph became Brother Louis, OCD (deceased); (8) Frederick became Brother Boniface, 75 (he plans to visit Infanta for the first time during Father Dominic's jubilee); (9) Thomas Aquinas became Father Dominic, OCD 73; and (10) Vincent, the youngest, became Father Hyacinth, OCD, 70 (he left the order to marry).

Their parents, the late Louis and Gertrude Scheerer, couldn't have planned it any better. Louis, who worked as a police officer in Philadelphia, wanted to become a Dominican priest himself. He entered the seminary for the Order of Preachers, taking the name Brother Hyacinth. He left after only six months and later married the former Gertrude Beisel.

Louis and Gertrude had 10 children. They not only raised them in the Catholic faith but also inspired them toward the vocation to the religious life. "My parents influenced me the most in my vocation," said Father Dominic.

The Scheerer clan went to Mass daily; the children studied in parochial schools. "I was also an altar boy," said Father Dominic, who knew while still in grade school that he wanted to become a priest. "I also remember priests would stop by and visit," he said. "They were my father's classmates of at the Dominican seminary." Of course, there were the older brothers and sisters.

Was he ever mischievous? "I was a good boy," but he added laughing, "I was a prankster as well." Then he recalled, "There was a time when I put Limburger cheese on somebody's shoes, then he struck back by putting Vicks all over my pajamas."

Life of quiet
Those days of youthful mischief and work in the mission are over for Father Dominic, who left the Philippines in 1979. Today, his days are still a life of service &emdash; "I believe in giving of self to others as Christ did," he said &emdash; "and a life of quiet," in the tradition of Carmel, except during dinner, community prayers and recreation. Recreation for the Carmelites is an hour before dinner at 6 p.m., and does not include television. "We listen to hi-fi (stereo), read, or talk." The Carmelites usually take turns with household duties such as cleaning and cooking. And "yes, even the prior takes his turn," said Father Dominic.

When needed, "We also help out at St. Florian (a Carmelite-run parish), or the retired Carmelite sisters." Also as prior, Father Dominic is the presider of the house of six priests and one seminarian, making sure everything is in order. Occasionally, he does a round of golf with friends. "My only handicap is myself," he said laughing, "I rarely break a hundred."

In the meantime, Father Dominic, "though humbled by this attention," he said, will have something to look forward to in the next two years.

"Labong ng Kawayan: Walking through the Pathways and Streets of Infanta" 2002

Comments on the passing of Fr. Dominic

Fr. Joel Borreo, OCD
Manila, Philippines

Last week, when I read in the MIF website the articles on our dear Fr. Dominic, I wanted to write you to share with you our little activities in tribute to Fr. Dominic.

Aside from the fact that he was a great missionary in our Prelature of Infanta, he was also one of the pillars of the OCD Philippine Province being First Councilor when this circumscription was created in 1977.

We planned to send somebody to the Holy Hill for the funeral. The only OCD Friar here who already has a visa who could easily go is Fr. Bernard Ybiernas. I called him up and we agreed he would go. However, he got sick before he could leave, and had to follow doctor's advice not to travel.

This evening (Feb 19, 2004) at 6:00 P.M. the two communities of OCD Friars here in Manila had a memorial Mass at Mt. Carmel Church in his honor. A smiling photo of him, taken during the Golden Jubilee of the presence of the OCD Friars in the Philippines, was enlarged and prominently displayed near the altar. Several friends of Fr. Dominic who read the notice in the obituary in the national papers came to join the celebration. There were representatives from the Notre Dame De Vie, Carmelite Nuns, Carmelite Missionaries and from the town of Infanta. Several members of the Ortigas Family--long time friends of Fr. Dominic, were also present. Ten priests, including Fr. Boy Makabenta of the Prelature of Infanta, concelebrated. As Provincial, it would have been my honor to be the presider, but Bishop Labayen also came. I requested him to be the presider and he kindly agreed.

Fr. Arnold Boehme was the preacher. He started his homily by cracking a joke, justifying afterward that Fr. Dominic was a great joker and story teller. He related historical facts about Fr. Dominic and recalled some experiences they shared when they were working in the different parishes in the Northern part of the Prelature. He testified that Fr Dominic had a big faith and a big heart.

Fr. Dominic was indeed a great missionary. We will miss him... but it's not true that he is gone forever. His spirit lives on through the many individuals whose lives he had touched and inspired.

Gina Garcia
Lindenhurst, NY

Fr. Dominic was someone I spent my childhood knowing and loving. His niece, Brenda Scheerer Wilson, has been my childhood, life-long friend, for almost 30 years. I knew Brother Vincent, her father, until his passing when we were nine years old, and "Uncle Dom", as I knew him, was always a part of our lives, near and far away. He not only gave of himself to many millions around the world, but he was there for his brother's children after Lou (Brother Vincent) died.

He will be missed and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to know such a fine man in my life. Please pray for his family who loved him and will miss him dearly.

Brenda Scheerer Wilson

Thank you for writing such a nice article about Fr. Dominic Scheerer. My name is Brenda Wilson (maiden Scheerer). My dad was Bro. Vincent Scheerer. The mass for my Uncle Dom will be held this Saturday at Holy Hill at 11:00am. I was lucky enough to see my uncle this past weekend. He was in good spirits &endash; willing to give his blessings to visitors and smiling at every good joke. He is and will be missed. Thank you again for writing about him.

Rudy Arizala
Santiago, Chile

I am glad that before the late Fr. Dominic Scheerer, O.C.D., passed away on 10 February 2004, he was able to make a "Balikbayan" visit to Infanta, Quezon, through the efforts and kindness of the Metro Infanta Foundation and celebrated not only his 75th birthday but also his golden anniversary as a Carmelite priest in October 1997.

After that "Balikbayan" visit in Infanta, he wrote me that he was amazed at the progress achieved by Infanta -- good asphalt road across the Sierra Madre mountains, and the economic and social progress of the people. He added, however, the rapid pace of the progress "is frightening." Probably, he was referring to the impact on the spiritual life of the people.

While we mourn his loss, we are grateful that there was an American Carmelite priest in the person of Fr. Dominic who passed this way once to Infanta and touched and enriched our lives.

The funeral of Fr. Dominic

by Pol Derilo

Fr. Dom went to the Philippines in the late 40s as a young Carmelite missionary.

On a sunny mid-afternoon on St. Valentine's day, Fr. Dominic's body was laid to rest on the western slope of Holy Hill, a few yards behind the 7th station of the cross. It is a community plot reserved for Carmelite friars. Viewed from a lower position, his grave lies on the left side of the landing. On the right are the snow-covered sites of other Carmelites. It was a quite Saturday afternoon, and though there was no howling wind, the air was still bone chilling. Standing in front of his grave, the towering National Shrine is visible through the bare columns of trees and beyond the ascending snow filled ledges of the hill. Fr. Dominic finally embraced the dwelling he chooses and the serenity he deserved. It reinforces the shrine's foundation and the hill's fitting name, Holy Hill - National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians.

Beyond the fitting tribute to his mortal body, awaits "many rooms in my Father's house" (John 14:1-6) for his soul. This was the gospel adapted for his Mass of the Resurrection. It was one of the farewell discourses that our Lord declared to his disciples. Preceding this were the readings from Wisdom 3.1-6, 9 and another from Romans 14:7-9, 10b-12. All were appropriate expressions and invocations of hope, trust and charity.

The funeral service started with a wake at the chapel of St. Mary before the casket was moved in front of the main altar for the concelebrated mass at 11:00 in the morning. The father provincial Fr. Jude Peters asked Fr. Cyril Guise who is Fr. Dominic's cousin to be the principal celebrant. Hundreds of religious, friends, relatives and guests filled the shrine including his brother Vince. The only surviving sister, Sr. Rita was unable to come. The rest of his ten brothers and sisters all belong to the religious, either as bishop, priest, brothers and sisters. Melecia Garcia, my wife Vacion and I were the only ones from the Prelature.

As we are all aware, Fr. Dominic spent three decades of his prime life in varied missionary assignments in the Prelature of Infanta. Their mission resumed what the Spanish missionaries initiated before the 1900s. The continuation provided the biggest leap in the evangelization together with building and rehabilitating religious infra structures as well as establishing the areas in education and communication. After his foreign assignment, Fr. Dominic returned to the States fulfilling various positions in different provinces of his order.

When he visited Infanta to celebrate his 50th Ordination nearly five years ago, he was amazed by the changes he saw in different aspects of the people's lives. Typical of him as a priest, he expressed concerns about some of these changes. Presumably, as what Rudy Arizala thought, he was thinking of the negative effects of the changes upon the people's lives. On the other hand, others who are familiar with Fr. Dominic's humor said they can imagine him saying, "It could have been worst had I not joined the mission.

Thank you Fr. Dominic. We are all happy that you are now in house with many rooms in the kingdom of God.

"Touching article," Rudy Arizala

The article "The Funeral of Fr. Dominic", by Pol Derilo (Kuya Poling) was quite touching and I am very glad that some Infantahins were able to accompany the remains of Fr. Dominic to its final resting place.

Now, he has joined the Lord in the "home of many mansions, in the home of love and light" as the song goes.

Your call for contributions to the MIF website is timely. Two or three regular contributors would not be enough if we are to keep the website the constant source of fresh and invigorating news.

I noted that very few reacted through the MIF Website on the passing away of Fr. Dominic. Maybe, they prefer silence. I hope in their silence, at least they offered a silent prayer for Fr. Dominic.


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