Ordination of the presbyterate
Throughout his priestly life, Fr. Johannes Schneider followed the patron of the Wrocław cathedral both in terms of fidelity to his vocation and flawless priestly chastity. As his biographer, Fr. J. Schweter, thanks to his unblemished priestly chastity, “enjoyed the full happiness of a priestly vocation and had a heart full of compassion for the poor victims of passion and seduction.”
The day of priestly ordination was recognized by Fr. Johannes Schneider as the most important in his life. The goal he had pursued continuously for 12 years and which he had to pay with many sacrifices was finally achieved. Priestly ordination opened for him the possibility of fulfilling his vocation as a priest but also as a defender of the weakest and morally endangered and the founder of a new religious congregation. He never treated the priesthood as an opportunity to raise his social status or start a career.
He celebrated the first Mass on July 2, 1849 in the Wrocław cathedral in the 14th-century St. Mary’s chapel. Sermon during Holy Mass primition was delivered by his compatriot, Fr. Dr. Johannes Klein (1818-1890) vicar from Ścinawa, bachelor of canon law and member of many scientific societies. Fr. Schneider admired his older friend from school days. The primitions were very modest. It is also significant that they took place in Wrocław, and not in the family parish in Rudziczka. Probably the reason for this could be the situation in the neo-presbyter’s home parish. Former parish priest and great protector of Johannes Schneider, Fr. Antoni Hoffmann died in February 1847, and the parish after his death was managed by an administrator, unknown to him. Only on February 24, 1851, Rudziczka received a new parish priest in the person of Fr. Wilhelm Vogt. It also seems that Fr. Johannes Schneider also later, as a priest, did not identify strongly with his family parish. This can be proved by the record of Fr. Walter Schwedowitz, priest of Rudziczka in the years 1921-1945, author of a monograph on six parishes of the Prudnik deanery, including Rudziczka. He does not mention Fr. Johannes Schneider among the priests from the parish in the nineteenth century, but included his short biography at the end of his book, in which he presented Fr. Schneider as a priest from the Rudziczka parish and the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate. This fact may indicate that the author forgot to mention Fr. John in his book or that this figure was not strongly identified with the parish in Rudziczka.
Vicar in Wiązów
The first institution of Fr. Johannes Schneider was a parish in the town of Wiązów in the district of Strzelin. He worked in the church of St. Cross, St. Peter and Paul and St. Jadwiga – the patroness of Silesia.
To Wiązów, Fr. John Schneider hit most probably as a result of the interference of the rector of the Alumnate, Fr. doc. Dr. Joseph Sauer, who could have solicited that Fr. John worked in his native parish, finding him fit and able for this position. Fortunately for Fr. Schneider was that his first parish priest, Fr. Franz Elpelt was a priest very zealous and sensitive to the practical solutions of the then emerging problems related to the so-called a social issue. During his stay, Fr. John Schneider in Wiązów, the parish had about 3,500 believers. The zeal of Fr. Franz Elpelt made Fr. Schneider on the issue of solving the problems of poor people, especially the moral poverty among working women. In the town of Wiązów, many girls worked in a cigar factory. At that time, they fell into all sorts of addictions and bad company. Fr. Schneider organized meetings for them on Saturdays and Sundays, which were an opportunity for working girls to integrate with their peers and were a safe and valuable meeting environment. The young vicar Schneider cared for their fair entertainment and for deepening their religious and moral knowledge. A large number of female servants also worked on estates in fifteen rural centers belonging to the Wiązów parish. Dependent on their employers, they were often exposed to demoralization.
Fr. Johannes Schneider wanted to sensitize them to the matters of sacramental life, nurturing the life of prayer. With the help of his parish priest, with whom he got on well, he also influenced their parents and educators. In this field, he found help from the teacher and conductor of the parish choir – Depene. He took care of the level of church singing in the parish and encouraged young people to zealously participate in the services.
As a young curate, Fr. Schneider spent all his time working and helping those in need who were close to him.
Vicar in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek Island
After two years of work in Wiązów, On September 9, 1851, Fr. John Schneider was sent to work in the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek in Wrocław as a vicar. He took the place of Fr. Dr. Franz Lorinser, whom Bishop Bishop Dr. M. von Diepenbrock appointed priest in Alumnat. In 1851, the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wrocław had about 1,500 faithful.
The appointment of Fr. John Schneider to the position of vicar in the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Piasek in place of Fr. Dr. F. Lorinser, who was one of the most outstanding priests of the Wrocław diocese of his time, testifies to the fact that the bishop of Wrocław, Prince Cardinal Dr. Melchior von Diepenbrock, learned about his intellectual, spiritual and organizational skills. At that time, very talented priests, headed by Fr. doc. Dr. Józef Wick (1820-1903).
Fr. John Schneider first worked at the side of Fr. Franz Hoffmann, who was formally the parish priest in the years 1848-1852, and from November 12, 1852, Fr. Józef Wick. The appointment of Fr. Wicka for the post of parish priest in the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek was the last nomination of Prince Cardinal Dr. Melchior von Dipenbrock. Fr. doc. Dr. J. Wick took over the parish on January 4, 1853. At that time, the parish priest of the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek administered the parish of St. Michael the Archangel.
Father Johannes Schneider, as a vicar, established a very cordial cooperation with Fr. Robert Spiske, founder of the Sisters of St. Jadwiga (1859), who worked in this parish from June 20, 1848, also as a vicar (from September 2, 1851 to January 18, 1852, he was the administrator of the parish of St. Michael in Wrocław), and from January 18, 1852 . was the curator of this parish.
The first parish priest, Fr. John Schneider, Fr. Franz Hoffmann was a conflict and tragic figure. He did not work long in the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Piasek. On March 16, 1852, he was suspended, and five months later dismissed by Cardinal Melchior von Dipenbrock, with whom he had unpleasant disputes.
Fr. Schneider not only did not have the slightest disagreement with his brothers in the priesthood, but was also able to establish very fruitful cooperation with the newly appointed parish priest, Fr Józef Wick and Fr. Robert Spiske. He made a good team in pastoral work with them. At the same time, thanks to this cooperation, he could learn about the ways of solving problems related to the spiritual and material poverty of the society at that time.
Fr. doc. dr hab. Józef Wick was not only an outstanding priest and learned preacher, but also a talented social activist and organizer. He belonged in Germany – next to August Reichensperger and Fr. Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler – to the promoters of the Vincentian movement. He took part in 1848 – alongside Silesian priests,John Baltzer, Henryk Förster and Franciszek Wittke – in the first congress of German Catholics in Mainz. After returning from Mainz, on 11 November 1848, he organized a congress of Silesian Catholics in Wrocław. In the years 1848-1849, Fr. doc. Dr. Józef Wick created about 120 Catholic organizations with the headquarters in Wrocław. On his initiative, among others, the Union of the Catholic East, the Catholic Craft Union, the Boarding House for Children, and the Catholic Library in Wrocław were established. In Germany, the Vincentian movement had an impact on the establishment of women’s organizations that looked after sick women, abandoned children, and girls at risk of prostitution. St. Vincent de Paul fought against tabloid literature, organized savings banks, libraries, and promoted good religious literature among the poor. They were the nucleus of the Catholic Action in Silesia.
On the principles of the Society of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, the Union of Catholic Married Women and Virgin Mary under the invocation of St. Jadwiga included about 3,000 female members. It was dominated by teachers and educated people. Thanks to the good formation of this Association, provided by Fr. Robert Spiske, these women have mastered the plight of the poor people in the city; because they took care of sick people, prisoners, and neglected children. From this Society emerged in 1859 the female congregation of the Sisters of St. Hedwig of the Blessed and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, based on the rule of St. Augustine for the Third Order.
In 1863, the parish priest Fr. Wick founded the periodical “Breslauer Hausblätter” transformed into the daily “Schlesische Volkszeitung”. Therefore, in this newspaper there is an extensive posthumous article about Fr. Schneider!
The work of Fr. Johannes Schneider in the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Piasek and contacts with the above-mentioned priests constituted an important pastoral formation. He prepared him for the tasks of the great Apostle of mercy and priest. In the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he gained the opinion of an excellent preacher, confessor and organizer. In this situation, it seems natural that Fr. Schneider was chosen to find another new association.
Pastoral care in the parish of St. Matthias
Successor of Prince Cardinal Melchior von Diepenbrock (+1853), Prince Bishop Dr. Heinrich Förster, on April 3, 1854, appointed Fr. John Schneider as a guardian in the parish of St. Matthias.
In 1853, this parish had 3,975 Catholics, while the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary had approximately 1,500 Catholics over the years 1851-1853.
After the death of the parish priest, Fr. Jonathan Hoffmann (+18 January 1857), Fr. John Schneider became the administrator of this parish. When Fr. Dr. Franz Lorinser withdrew in 1858 from his work as a priest in Alumnat, Prince Bishop H. Förster appointed him on July 5, 1858 – as an elder priest of Fr. Schneider parish priest of St. Matthias. Fr. J. Schneider became the guardian again, although in fact it was he, not Fr. Dr. F. Lorinser who was mainly concerned with the spiritual affairs of the parishioners. He accepted this external degradation in a spirit of obedience without any sign of any objection. Fr. Dr. F. Lorinser was a passionate scientist and devoted himself to research and literary work. Fr. F. Lorinser served as the parish priest until November 14, 1869. On this day, Prince Bishop Henrich Förster appointed Fr. Dr. F. Lorinser a member of the Cathedral Chapter and released him from the duties of the parish priest of St. Matthias. From 11 November 1869 until his death, the duties of the parish priest of St. Maciej was performed by Fr. Jonn Schneider.
Work in the parish
As a parish priest, he restored the parish church, renovated four altars, the pulpit, the tabernacle and the painting in the main altar. Most of the repairs were carried out by the Wrocław company of Karl Buhl, with whom Fr. John arranged the work and signed contracts.
Fr. John Schneider as the parish priest of St. Matthias administered the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Wrocław, which, as a result of the liquidation of the Jesuit Order in 1773 and the secularization of Silesian monasteries in 1810, passed – along with the college – to the administration of the municipal authorities. Until 1819 it was the university and gymnasium church, and then the parish church of St. Matthias. Fr. John Schneider embellished the interior of this temple and carried out numerous renovation and restoration works there as well. He started these works in 1872. Before these repairs, the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus was – due to the lack of repairs – in a pitiful condition.
In 1869, when he was appointed parish priest of St. Matthias counted 5,850 Catholics. There were two churches on its territory: St. Matthias and the parish church of the Holy Name of Jesus. In 1876, in the parish, apart from Fr. J. Schneider were five priests. Fr. John Schneider was a very hardworking and energetic priest.
His duties as a parish priest were not only focused on the restoration and renovation of the temple. He was a very active priest, initiating many prayer and formation groups, organizing the spiritual life of the parish and taking care of many different groups existing in the parish.
It seems that such an intense priestly and pastoral life completely filled the activities of Fr. Schneider, but this is only an impression, because at the same time he led and organized help for girls in the association and devoted a lot of attention to the new religious community that was emerging on his initiative.
Fulfilling so many tasks and responsibilities can only be possible when you put yourself and your time at the total disposal of God, when you serve Him and do not look for your own interests.
sr. Sybilla Kołtan