Schrantz, Father Charles

1934 January 4

Date of Birth: 1845, May 20

No Memorial Card is Available

April 11, 1934

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

The dean (by age) of our American province, Father Schrantz, was called to God on last January 4th. He was eighty-eight years old and was a Sulpician for sixty-three years. His long career was spent completely outside his native land. I would like to depict him as he was, and throw in relief the beautiful traits that made Father Schrantz one of the most thorough models of the Sulpician missionary. “Missionary, that is the title,” he said to the writer of these lines, “which is given to me in the ordo of my [home] diocese. In the strict sense of the term, I have never been so; but nevertheless I am proud of the title, for in coming to the United States at the time St. Sulpice sent me there, I had the ambition of forming missionaries and I have worked at it with all my heart.”

Charles Bernard Schrantz was born on May 20, 1845, at Diekirch in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg of a very religious family. Of his earliest years we know very little. He made his first studies at the parish school of Diekirch. After beginning his classical studies at the college of his native town, he came to Reims to finish. In 1865, feeling himself called to the ecclesiastical state, he entered Philosophy at the major seminary in Reims, and he chose Reims as his diocese where he thought he would dedicate himself to the service of the Church. But God had His own plan. While Father Schrantz was in Theology, Father Dubreuil, Superior of the Baltimore seminary, came to Reims. The seminary had already given to the Society Fathers Menu and Vuibert, who both had pledged themselves to our work in the United States. Father Dubreuil took advantage of his visit to explain to the teachers and students the state of our Sulpician work in the Diocese of Baltimore. He showed them the glory of it, he exerted himself to make them understand its importance, he discussed the marvelous development in progress to which this work was destined. But on the other hand, he pointed out to his young hearers that if, just as in the time of Our Lord, the harvest was plentiful, so too there were too few workers for it. Father Schrantz’s director asked him if he would not like to add to the number of Sulpicians working in the United States. At once Father Schrantz assented, and he volunteered to be sent to Baltimore.

Having received diaconate, Father Schrantz was sent to the Seminary of St. Sulpice in 1869. He was to finish his Theology there. But for him that last year of study was a very troubled one. The Franco-Prussian War broke out. The seminary was closed down before the school year was over. And Father Schrantz found himself away from his own country and away from the diocese into which he had been incardinated. However, he was given permission to go across the German lines to Diekirch, his native place. And on December 17, 1870, Bishop Landriot, in his private chapel in Reims, ordained him priest.

In March, 1871, Father Schrantz returned to Paris. The Solitude was opened at Issy. All those who have read the exciting account entitled St. Sulpice pendant la Guerre et la Commune [St. Sulpice during the War and the Commune] know how some of the events – tragic and comic – affected the life of the Solitaires and the seminary. Father Schrantz was part of these events and like his confreres he was, of course, affected by them. With these confreres too, after McMahon’s army had liberated Issy, he went to Orleans, where Father Branchereau’s hospitality let them finish their Sulpician formation.

In the 1871 vacation period, with Father McCallen, his fellow Solitaire, Father Schrantz left Europe and came to Baltimore. He had been appointed teacher at St. Charles, which he was seldom ever to leave.

St. Charles had at that time as its Superior Father Ferté, who died as Vice-rector of Issy. Two years previously, Father Ferté had succeeded Father Jenkins, first Superior and founder of the college which the munificence of Charles Carroll, Washington’s friend, had permitted to open at Ellicott City. The college already had nearly 200 students. Without stinting, Father Schrantz was going to spend there his time, his talents, his fortune, and his life, entering fully into the spirit of its operation and becoming in the eyes of his colleagues like the students – the perfect Sulpician for what is desirable in a minor seminary dedicated exclusively to the education of clergy.

He had everything necessary for success with boys and young men. Big, healthy, athletic, shrewd, good at games, he immediately struck the students as a sportsman capable of matching the strongest and the ablest.

As Prefect of Discipline, he had them all under control by reason of the firmness with which he treated students who left something to be desired, and by reason of the trust and justice which he showed to the others. As a teacher he was noted for the substantiality, the method, and the practicality of his instruction, which included sciences, languages, and Catechism.

On Father Rex’s death in 1896, Father Schrantz became Superior of St. Charles College. He was to be in that office for nine years. One of his successors has aptly noted that Father Schrantz, during his time as Superior, gave proof of the quality that is before all else hailed in anyone who is in charge of boys or men – justice. “He always gave it refuge in his heart, where no partiality, no passion, no weakness, was allowed to enter, and from which it shone, incorruptible and inherent, in the last detail of his life. Humble, deferential, affectionate, likeable and polite, Father Schrantz knew how to remain honorable: he had character.”

Father Schrantz’s term of office as Superior came to an end in 1905. He was succeeded by Father McKenny. After spending some time in Rome at the Canadian College, Father Schrantz for five years was Treasurer of the seminary [Divinity College] of the university in Washington. After that, in 1911, the year of the fire at St. Charles, he returned there; resumed teaching, particularly the teaching of French, up to 1925; and received the title of Superior Emeritus by reason of the long ministry and outstanding service which he had rendered to our province in the United States.

It was at St. Charles (Catonsville) that our venerable confrere was to finish his career. There, he was what he had been in the past – the model Sulpician with a deep religious spirit, very faithful to his rule of life, completely devoted to the ministry of prayer and example, the only ministry he was still capable of performing. “We always see hin,” wrote one of the St. Charles students, “going and coming here and there. How often have we been edified by this venerable Father, who, rosary in hand, moved, now to the chapel, now to the refectory, now to the parlor, now to his small room near the dormitory. In the daily performance of his duties, in him one virtue seemed to overshadow all the others – humility … which gleamed in his actions and reached the hearts of all who came across him. We shall always remember the venerable priest, so old, who in our college days worked for us and roused us to great things by his holiness and example.”

The writer of the lines just quoted tells us that twice he had the honor and privilege of serving Father Schrantz’s Mass. “The dignity,” he said, “with which he celebrated inspired in me the desire of celebrating like him when my time would come, and of offering the Holy Sacrifice as perfectly as did this old priest before me.”

Father Schrantz continued saying Mass as long as he could. With the same calm and religious spirit with which he said Mass, he offered himself to God during a five months’ illness, and joined himself to the suffering of Christ, Sovereign priest. A sickness with no let-up, a stomach tumor, tried his patience and let him prepare himself for death. He gave us all an example of Christian resignation and the most perfect spirit of faith. God called him to Himself last January 4th.

His funeral was held in the St. Charles chapel on January 8th. Father Fenlon, Provincial Superior in the United States, sang the Mass, assisted by Father Harrigan, Superior of St. Charles, and Father Brown, Vice-superior. In the absence of Archbishop Curley of Baltimore, ill and far way from St. Charles, his Auxiliary, Bishop McNamara, presided. Archbishop Mooney of Rochester was present as was the Vicar General of Toledo, the Superiors General of the Paulists and Josephites, as well as many friends and former students of Father Schrantz, among them several Baltimore pastors. One of these latter, Monsignor Monaghan, pastor of St. Ambrose, graciously consented to substitute for Monsignor Pace, Vice-rector of the university in Washington (kept at the last moment from speaking); and Monsignor Monaghan preached the eulogy of the venerable “priest, who having learned to obey, knew how to exercise authority without making others feel inferior or dependent.”

Now the body of Father Schrantz rests in the little St. Charles cemetery near his predecessors, Fathers Jenkins, Denis, Rex and Hogue, amindst his old colleagues and friends, a few steps away from the college to which he had given his life.

I recommend to your prayers the soul of the revered deceased, and I renew to you, Fathers and dear confreres, the expression of my fraternal affection of Our Lord.

P. Boisard

Vice Superior General of St. Sulpice