St. Paul native Msgr. Gregory Schaffer, a priest of the Diocese of New Ulm and pastor for 48 years of the diocese’s mission parish of San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala, died May 24 at Cerenity Care Center Marian of St. Paul, Minn., after a long battle with lymphoma/cancer. He was 78.
Msgr. Schaffer achieved national and international recognition for his work on behalf of the San Lucas mission. He led numerous efforts to improve the health, education, living conditions, employment prospects and spiritual welfare of its people. He also traveled widely to speak to churches and other organizations to raise awareness of the mission and raise funds for its operations.
Msgr. Schaffer was born on Jan. 29, 1934, in St. Paul to John Conrad and Ann Catherine (Regan) Schaffer. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of New Ulm on Feb. 21, 1960, at the Church of St. Mary in Sleepy Eye by Bishop Alphonse J. Schladweiler.
Following ordination he was assigned as associate pastor of the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Marshall. On July 16, 1963, Bishop Schladweiler appointed him as diocesan missionary to San Lucas. During his time there, Msgr. Schaffer spearheaded many projects, including the construction of a medical and dental clinic, elementary schools for more than 600 students, a library, extensive sustainable housing and a women’s center. He also undertook various land projects and coffee exportation. Thanks to his efforts, the mission sells “Juan-Ana” Coffee (http://www.juananacoffee.com) via the Internet and in some grocery stores.
For his devotion to the people of San Lucas and his commitment to help them rise above poverty, Msgr. Schaffer was recognized with numerous awards. In 2007 the Guatemalan government bestowed on him their highest honor, the prestigious “Order of the Quetzal.”
Other awards he received include an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Loyola University in Chicago; an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of San Francisco; the Anonymous Heroes Working for Peace Through Development award from the Guatemalan consulate of the United Nations, Bancafe, and several local entities in Guatemala; the Diocese of New Ulm’s Diocesan Distinguished Service Award; and the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award.
On Oct. 18, 1984, Pope John Paul II conferred upon him the honorary title of “Monsignor” (Protonotary Apostolic).
Funeral arrangements for Msgr. Schaffer
On Tuesday, May 29, there will be visitation at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm from 3-9 p.m. There will be a prayer service at 8 p.m. followed by a rosary.
On Wednesday, May 30, there will be a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm at 10:30 a.m.
On Wednesday, May 30, there will be visitation at St. John Neumann in Eagan from 5-9 p.m. There will be a prayer service at 8 p.m. followed by a rosary.
On Thursday, May 31, there will be a funeral Mass at St. John Neumann in Eagan at 10:30 a.m.
Msgr. Schaffer’s body will then be flown to San Lucas Toliman for a final Mass and burial in the San Lucas Toliman cemetery.