From the time he was five or six, he wanted to be a surgeon. Although he'd been raised Catholic, in high school Deacon Schad said he stopped practicing the faith for "no particular reason, [I] just kind of dropped out." He pursued his dream of being a surgeon, going to the hospital where his uncle was a surgeon and sitting in on surgeries. Then his senior year, for the reason that he can only explain as wanting a "fresh start," he resolved that when he got to college, he would go back to Mass.
So his first week at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., Deacon Schad went to Confession for the first time in five or six years. At college, he majored in international relations and computer science and became involved in campus ministry as a sacristan. The next milestone on his journey of faith came his sophomore year of college, when he was confirmed. "My Confirmation was just an amazing experience," Deacon Schad said, describing how he was confirmed in a college basketball arena along with hundreds of others during the Easter Vigil. A local parish had rented out the arena for the celebration.
Deacon Schad said, "I had never up to that point felt so happy." He said that he felt a "sense of homecoming."
One of his professors told him that he had a smile on his face for two hours after the Confirmation, Deacon Schad said. "I guess that started watering the seed that was there so many years before," he said about his path to the priesthood.
Deacon Schad went on to earn a master's degree in foreign service and a law degree from Georgetown University. He had hoped to work as an international civil servant, but at Georgetown he was influenced by Stephen Feiler, who at the time was a deputy grand knight of the GU Knights of Columbus and encouraged Deacon Schad to join a discernment group on campus. After taking the bar exam, Deacon Schad entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in South Orange, N.J.
A turning point occured when Deacon Schad was with Cardinal McCarrick, now the archbishop emeritus of Washington, and other men discerning the priesthood at the Archdiocese of Washington's Pastoral Center. The deacon said Cardinal McCarrick looked right at him and began to recite a passage from the "Hound of Heaven," a poem by the English poet Francis Thompson about a man trying to escape from God.
"It was like someone had just looked into my soul and looked right through me," Deacon Schad said. About his decision to become a priest, Deacon Schad said, "That's probably what did it."
Even though he had decided not to fulfill his earlier dreams of being a surgeon or an international civil servant, Deacon Schad said he saw how he could still use the skills from those professions in his vocation to the priesthood. Although he would not be involved in physical healing as a surgeon, he understood that he would now be involved in spiritual healing as a priest. Although he would not be involved in international relations, he saw that he would be an "ambassador for God" and "mediate between God and man."
The deacon said he believes "God gives all of us some mission." He added, "I really think that's where our happiness comes from."
When asked about his goals as a priest, Deacon Schad said he'd like "to be a holy priest and to lead people to God."
The deacon came to the United States from the Dominican Republic when he was 17. He said the culture in the Dominican Republic is "infused with Catholicism." Catholicism is the official religion of the Dominican Republic and 90-95 percent of the residents are Catholic, he said. The top of the country's seal says, "God, Country, Liberty."
Deacon Schad said his decision to come to the United States instead of staying in the Dominican Republic was one of the toughest he ever had to make. But he said he decided that he could do more for "God and the Church" speaking English and Spanish in the United States, where the Hispanic Catholic population is growing.
Deacon Schad was also given the opportunity to serve at the Papal Mass at Nationals Park on April 17. He gave the blessing announcement at the conclusion of Mass. The deacon said he did not find out about his role until the night before the Mass. Being close to Pope Benedict on the altar, Deacon Schad said, "...I could tell this was simply a priest saying Mass," the same way a priest celebrates Mass in Africa or in the suburbs or in any other place around the world. The deacon said it then hit him that "In a few months I would be celebrating [Mass]." Deacon Schad said what struck him about the pope was his ability to focus on the Mass while he was surrounded by tens of thousands of people at Nationals Park. The pope was able to "put that aside and worship God," the deacon said, which was "his calling," is "my calling," and is "all of our calling."
Deacon Schad will celebrate his first Mass at St. Bernadette Parish in Silver Spring on June 15. About consecrating the Eucharist for the first time, the deacon said, "I expect that it'll be just a sense of awe and wonder that God could use me for something so great."
- Jesus Christ present in the Holy Eucharist, in Sacred Scriptures, in the parish, in people who are in need, and in each child’s heart;
- Providing a loving and joyful experience of our Catholic parish community;
- Liturgical worship/Mass and Sacraments, Sacred Scripture, and the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church;
- Promoting loving choices (Christian morality), stewardship, social justice, and service to others as Disciples of Christ.
- Attending Mass weekly and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year during Lent;
- Praying at home daily with children (bedtime prayers, meal prayers, and bible reading are essential);
- Instilling Christian moral values through sharing wisdom, demonstrating love and affection, providing a good example of Christian choices/virtues, making time for each child, and providing consistent kind and loving discipline;
- Taking an interest in Faith Formation, asking about classes/studies, and attending special family events;
- Volunteering to assist with Faith Formation and other parish events, and contributing financially to the parish (Faith Formation fees cover only about 1/3 of the actual costs);
- Placing a priority on regular attendance at all required classes and/or meetings, and doing make-up work;
- Maintaining firm supervision of TV, music, videos, games, books and other media to ensure good content.