Father Francis Joseph Schenk, a Glenmary Home Missioner for 66 years, died April 11 in Cincinnati. He was 102.
One of the oldest and longest serving Glenmarians, Father Frank was not expected to live past age 15. Early in life, he contracted a bone disease that took him six operations, and years of bedrest to recover from. Once healed, Father Frank set out to see the world, working in Wyoming and South Dakota, studying in Washington State and visiting friends in Oregon. During a short vacation, he visited an Oregon library, where he read about Glenmary, a new Catholic society that was serving in the southern and rural United States. Intrigued, Father Frank sent letters to Glenmary founder Father William Howard Bishop, who invited the Mount Vernon, Ind. native to begin the formation program in 1948.
After his ordination in 1955, Father Frank began serving in Sylva, Spruce Pine and North Wilkesboro, N.C. He also ministered in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia and Arkansas. A small town boy, he enjoyed rural ministry, connecting with the community and parish and helping to break down barriers between Catholics and Protestants.
“Father Frank wanted to contribute to the mission cause however he could,” said Glenmary president Father Chet Artysiewicz. “He stayed in the missions until he was 90! He lived very simply and was interested in the affairs of Glenmary and the world. He was practical and his observations reflected basic common sense.” In his service, Father Frank wrote a weekly newspaper column, hosted a radio show, preached in a tent and helped build a North Carolina church by hand. One of the first Glenmarians to study Spanish, Father Frank started a Spanish Mass in all of his missions and provided outreach to migrant workers who needed help with transportation, translating services, food or work.
On two occasions Father Frank worked in Colombia as a pastor and a scout for potential Glenmary missions in South America. Though the areas he served were poor and remote, he enjoyed feeding the hungry, educating the youth and ministering to his parish. Father Frank did not accept Glenmary senior membership until age 90. Though legally blind, he was determined to continue working until he could no longer be of service.
Even after he returned to Cincinnati, Father Frank continued to tend a garden and bake fresh bread every morning for many years. Father Frank made his first oath with Glenmary in 1951 and was ordained a priest in 1955. He attended St. Martin’s College in Olympia, Wash., St. Gregory Seminary in Cincinnati and St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati. He also studied Spanish in Cincinnati and Cuernavaca, Mexico.
He is survived by many nieces, nephews, fellow missioners and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Rose (nee Bluff) Schenk); and brother, John (Bernice) Schenk.
Reception of the body will take place at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at Our Lady of the Fields' Chapel, 4085 Glenmary Trace, Fairfield, Ohio. Visitation will follow. Wake service will begin at 7 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 19, at St. Matthias Catholic Church, 1050 W. Kemper Rd., Cincinnati, Ohio. Interment will follow at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, 11000 Montgomery Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45249.
Memorials may be made to Glenmary Home Missioners, P.O. Box 465618, Cincinnati, OH 45246-5618 or visit Glenmary.org.