The following was written by LIZ QUIRIN, editor of The Messenger, the newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill. It was written in 2009.
Bishop Stanley Schlarman grew into priesthood from the time he was a youngster growing up in St. Peter Cathedral Parish in Belleville. It just seemed natural.
His mother told him that from a very early age he was attentive to the Mass. “She always told me I was just riveted to the liturgy,” he said.
Later, his mother told him that she “had promised God my first two children I would give back to him as a priest and a nun,” he said.
Bishop Schlarman’s sister, Sister Pat Schlarman has been a member of the Adorers of the Precious Blood for more than 50 years taking her final vows as an Adorer while her brother was still a seminarian.
ttending St. Henry’s Seminary in Belleville was a happy time for him. “The Oblates encouraged you in whatever interested you; it was a great life,” he said.
After attending St. Henry’s for six years, then Bishop Albert R. Zuroweste decided to send a seminarian to Rome to study. He sent Stanley Schlarman.
He spent his next six years in Rome, with the first being “very difficult” mainly because of the Latin.
After three years, he went home for the summer. “It was hard to go back,” he said, but go back he did because “I felt called” to be a priest.
Ordained only to say Mass July 13, 1958 while still a seminarian, he was what was described at the time as a “house priest.” His parents, his uncle, Father Cyril Schlarman and Jack Wottowa, a second cousin who was traveling in Europe at the time attended his ordination.
Then Father Schlarman celebrated his first Mass at home July 14, 1959.
Suddenly, he was back in school taking classes so that he could teach that fall at Mater Dei High School in Breese.
He had eight periods a day that included freshman and sophomore religion classes, senior guidance and one study hall.
That first year “I hated teaching, but not to the point where it overwhelmed me; I just stayed a chapter ahead of the students.”
“In my second year, it just turned around and I fell in love with it,” he said. He remained at Mater Dei for 15 years.
While at Mater Dei he was a part-time associate at a number of surrounding parishes.
Father Schlarman went to see Bishop Zuroweste in 1974 to talk about his future. “I was not unhappy,” he said, “but I did become a priest to be a parish priest.”
He went to Cairo as pastor of St. Patrick’s for four years and was then ordained an auxiliary bishop for Belleville in 1979.
He took as his motto: “Who is a rock but our God?” from Psalm 18.
In 1983 he was named bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kan., where he remained until 1998 when he returned to the Diocese of Belleville.
“When I came home from Dodge City I was worn out,” Bishop Schlarman said.
After a three-month hiatus from ministry, he became involved in prison ministry again.
Then, Bishop Joseph Imesch of Joliet asked for his help, and in 2003 he went there to become the Vicar for Priests.
In 2006 he returned to Belleville to become the Vicar for Priests of this diocese, a post that he continues to hold.
Bishop Schlarman has increased his prison ministry at Menard with weekly liturgies most weeks and monthly visits to the medium security prison there and the mental health facility as well.
Why does he continue this ministry? “It’s always rewarding,” he said.
Over his years as a priest, Bishop Schlarman said he has increasingly become aware of the power and importance of prayer.
“I realized 30 years ago when I became a bishop, the need to devote more time to prayer. I’m convinced this leads a priest to selfless service for as long as he can do it.”
As he continues to move forward, Bishop Schlarman takes a moment to look back over his 50 years as a priest.
“I love the priesthood and the priests of this diocese,” he said “I would never have done anything different from what God has asked me to do.”