Eric Schild finished at the top of his class. The fact he was the only member of his class matters little, because the Norwalk native realized a lifelong dream a week ago today.
Schild, 27, was ordained into the priesthood by Bishop Leonard Blair last Saturday in a morning service at Rosary Cathedral.
He was the diocese's lone priest ordained this year.
His first Mass of Thanksgiving was Sunday at St. Paul. He will celebrate again at 5 p.m. today at St. John Church, Defiance, and 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Little Flower Church, Toledo.
"I would say it's something that others always saw in me, even since second grade," Schild told the The (Toledo) Blade of his decision to be a priest. "I remember my classmates in second grade calling me 'Father' once in a while, which was funny. But I would say I probably realized the call in eighth grade."
Schild, 27, who graduated from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, said it has not been lonely being the diocese's only new priest of 2007.
"It's one of those things that you would certainly like to have classmates, but there is a great camaraderie of priests, specifically with the four who were ordained last year," he told The Blade. "I'm very good friends with them. And I'm very good friends with a number of priests. It's not like we separate into classes."
Schild, the oldest of three boys born to Dennis and Karen Schild of Norwalk, graduated from St. Paul Elementary and St. Paul High School. He received a bachelor's in communications and philosophy from John Carroll University in Cleveland; a master's of arts and a master's of divinity from St. Meinrad, and a master's in education from the University of Dayton.
Schild was the main speaker May 27 at the St. Paul High School graduation, where his youngest brother, Ryan, received his diploma.
This year's senior class selected Schild as their speaker. During the Mass, Schild said he saw members of the class grow up (the good and the bad, he joked) and it was a privilege to speak.
"Norwalk St. Paul has been such a supportive ministry. It's where I recognized my call and where people supported me when I was a little tyke. It will be such an honor to preside... It's a humbling thing."
Schild cited the encouragement and support he received from the late Rev. Harvey Keller, and two relatives in the priesthood an uncle, the Rev. Tony Borgia, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, and a cousin, the Rev. Benedict Ringholz, retired.
"Throughout my life, I have had good examples of priests who very much encouraged me," he said. "And I always had examples of happy, joyful priests. I think that is so powerful a thing to realize. You work hard, but you can have fun. Love life, love the ministry."
Bishop Blair appointed Schild associate pastor of St. Wendelin Parish in Fostoria, effective July 2.