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The seventh bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, died August 16, 2011, at the age of 82 at Wheeling Hospital. He served as bishop for more than 15 years from 1989 to 2004. He was born August 17, 1928, in Wheeling, the fourth of seven sons of the late Lawrence E. Schmitt and Eulalia R. Schiffer Schmitt. His concern for and dedication to Christ and Catholic education were developed at a young age. Following his graduation from Corpus Christi School in Wheeling and Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, the young Bernard Schmitt discerned God's call to priesthood and began his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles College in Catonsville, MD. He later attended St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. Later in life, he pursued a post-graduate degree in guidance and counseling at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling May 28, 1955, by Bishop Thomas J. McDonnell. His first assignment as a priest was as associate pastor of the cathedral, while also serving as master of ceremonies to Archbishop John J. Swint. In 1963, he was appointed director of Vocations, director of the Propagation of the Faith and director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) for the diocese. In 1966, Father Schmitt was appointed rector of St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary in Parkersburg, where he served until being appointed to his first pastorate at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in St. Albans. There, he was actively involved in the education and the formation of the students and families of St. Francis of Assisi Parish School. Father Schmitt was then appointed pastor of St. Michael Parish in Wheeling in 1982. He continued his active involvement in Catholic school education at the elementary and secondary levels. On May 31, 1988, Pope John Paul II appointed Father Schmitt as Auxiliary Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston and Titular Bishop of Walla Walla. He was ordained to the episcopacy August 1, 1988, and remained pastor of St. Michael Parish in Wheeling. The following year, March 30, 1989, Pope John Paul II chose Bishop Schmitt to succeed Bishop Francis B. Schulte as bishop of Wheeling- Charleston. On May 17, 1989, Bishop Schmitt was installed as the seventh bishop of Wheeling- Charleston. During his time as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, Bishop Schmitt was appointed to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, the Committee on Marriage and Family and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Committee. On August 17, 2003, his 75th birthday, Bishop Schmitt submitted his resignation as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in accord with canon law. Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation December 9, 2004. Bishop Schmitt was then elected as the diocesan administrator by the college of consultors. Bishop Michael J. Bransfield was then appointed as the eighth bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. Bishop Schmitt continued to serve the diocese in his retirement, celebrating confirmations, giving retreats and working with the Serra Club. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by four brothers, Reverend Eugene A. Schmitt, Lawrence J. Schmitt, Raymond J. Schmitt and Richard P. Schmitt. Surviving are two brothers, Henry G. Schmitt and his wife Virginia of St. Clairsville, Ohio, and Robert H. Schmitt, Sr., of Wheeling; numerous nephews, nieces, great-nephews, great-nieces and cousins. Bishop Schmitt will lie in state at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. and the family will be present from 4 to 6 p.m., on Sunday from 12 Noon to 7 p.m. the family will be present from 12-2 and 5-7 p.m. A vigil service will be held at 7 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Monday at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. Joseph with Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, as celebrant. Entombment will be in Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Wheeling. Memorial contributions may be made to the Schmitt Family Charitable Fund, an endowment in the West Virginia Catholic Foundation which supports Catholic parishes, schools and charities closest to Bishop Schmitt and his brothers. Contributions may be sent to the Schmitt Family Charitable Fund, P.O. Box 230, Wheeling, WV 26003 or made online at www.dwc.org. Arrangements by ALTMEYER FUNERAL HOME, 1400 Eoff Street, Wheeling. Online condolences may be expressed to the family at
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Published in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Aug. 20, 2011
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