Father Valens Waldschmidt is probably best known in St. Paul’s Home for his collection of jokes and puns, his stories from growing up in a small town in Illinois, and his singing and whistling as he strolls down the halls.
But for those who have the opportunity to sit and chat with Fr. Val, you realize not only how much he has given throughout his life but also how much more he has to give.
This past weekend, Fr. Val celebrated 75 years as a Franciscan and 65 years as a priest. Following his ordination he spent some time in parish work as well as giving retreats throughout the Midwest before becoming a longtime chaplain at the Pauline Warfield Lewis Center. Looking back on his years there, Fr. Val recalls, “It was consoling to be able to help the people, to see those who have been plagued by mental disturbance find their way back to be an integral part of society. It was beautiful to see.”
Although he has been officially retired for ten years, he continues to preside at Mass and visit Residents and employees throughout St. Paul’s Home. “The Sisters have created a beautiful spirit of charity here,” he explains. “It’s a wonderful place to call home and the employees and volunteers are all like family.”
Retirement offers Fr. Val the opportunity to keep up with current events as well as explore a range of topics in history and psychology. His “continuing education” in combination with personal experiences and compassion for others enables him to offer a special kind of wisdom. While current events may inspire frustration and even fear among some, Fr. Val’s “wisdom” allows him to respond with greater understanding and compassion.
His “wisdom” also encourages an openness to all that is positive in the world – whether it is on the other side of the globe or here in St. Paul’s Home. He speaks with appreciation of the seminarians who spend time with the Residents, as well as the many high school and college students who volunteer. He adds, “It’s important to recognize the good young people are doing. They have such a strong spirituality.”
We are blessed to have nearly a dozen retired religious and missionaries at St. Paul’s Home, and dozens of seniors each with their own personal experiences and insights.
We invite you to come and get to know them.
You might become a little wiser.
“It’s good for the young people to gather this wealth of experience and wisdom, and to carry it forward, not to store it in a museum, but to bring it forward addressing the challenges of life.”
– Pope Francis
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