Father Knew Best

Fr. Al Schwartz, founder of World Villages for Children and The Sisters of Mary with a group of children in Korea.

Of the countless descriptors that have come Fr. Al’s way over the years, perhaps none has suited him better than Father. On this very day, there remain tens of thousands of students, graduates, and members from the Sisters of Mary that still refer to Fr. Al as Spiritual Father.

It can be imagined that no moniker would have been more pleasing to Fr. Al. Simply, in his heart, lay a desire to shepherd each child he was able to order, sanctity, and eventually, heaven. Because this impulse to witness true fatherhood lay deeply with him, he strove to become a provider, leader, protector, spiritual guide, and an example for every child he brought into Boystowns and Girlstowns.

Examples to Follow

Fr. Al had exceptional teachers. Many of his saintly heroes practiced a form of masculine virtue and heroism. As a 14-year-old at St. Charles Minor Seminary in Baltimore, he became overwhelmed by the virile witness of Fr. Patrick Byrne, a Maryknoll missionary to Japan who was eventually martyred. It was Byrne’s heroic and emotional presentation to seminarians – when he invited them to consider martyrdom in spreading the Gospel in Japan and the Far East – that solidified in his heart a desire to become a missionary. 

When he became a priest, Fr. Al modeled his priesthood after three priest-saints – Saint John Bosco, Vincent de Paul, and Damien of Molokai. Each acted heroically while tending to the brokenhearted in their respective charisms.

With A Father’s Heart

Pope Francis wisely consecrated 2021 to St. Joseph, the guardian of the Son of God. It is no secret that one of the greatest scourges of modern times is the lack of fatherhood, masculine witness, and fathers in homes. It is also fair to say that an incalculable amount of fathers seem to have made icons of work, sports, Netflix, pornography, comfort, wealth, etc. Even as a small child, nothing infuriated Al more than those who sought comfort over the work of God.

Fr. Al caring for a young child who is sick.

It can be imagined that if Fr. Al were able to look across today’s landscape, he would be deeply saddened by the lack of masculine and virtuous witness. Because he knew first-hand the dangers of fatherless homes, Fr. Al was consistently left shaken by the many thousands of orphans wounded by growing up without a dad. He was told many dark stories by children whose Dads abandoned them. 

Thereafter, Fr. Al worked tirelessly to heal the devastation through a fatherly type of love that took them to a safe place of grace, order, and sustained tranquility.

In today’s One 2 One Lenten Journey Podcast, Fr. Dan and Kevin discuss the importance of masculinity and fatherhood during a time in history when gender and an acceptance of masculinity are in peril.