Missionary Priest From Chicago Gunned Down In Philippines
A 70-year-old missionary priest from Chicago, who worked with the poor in China, Japan and Alabama, was shot to death Thursday at a remote mountaintop village in the Philippines, according to the priest`s superiors in Chicago.
Rev. Carl Schmitz, a Northwest Side native, was shot at the Convent of the Passion Mission, a compound he had constructed in the Mindanao island village of Bulol in the Roxas Mountains, about 500 miles south of Manila. He had spent 18 years in the Philippines, mostly working among the Bilaan tribe. Rev. Sebastian MacDonald, provincial superior of the Passionist Community, 5700 N. Harlem Ave., said priests in Manila told him Father Schmitz had been killed by the husband of a woman who was refused a job earlier in the day at the mission school.
”She returned home and told her husband, who became incensed, grabbed his weapon and went into the rectory and confronted Father Carl-who had nothing to do with the hiring and firing,” Father MacDonald said. ”He shot him a number of times, and he died instantly.”
Wire service reports from Manila offered a different account Friday, saying the priest had fought with and was then shot by a local militia leader who had charged him with sheltering criminals.
They identified the suspect as Saguin ”Johnny” Munday, 29, a schoolteacher and local leader of the Civilian Home Defense Force, which was accused of serious human rights abuses under former President Ferdinand Marcos. But Father MacDonald discounted that report as an attempt to put a
”political taint” on the killing.
”We are going to petition the Philippine government to set up an investigative committee to explore the facts and clear his name of any smear,” said Father MacDonald, who will attend the priest`s burial Wednesday in the Philippines.
Father MacDonald said Father Schmitz often interceded on behalf of criminals and communist rebels who wished to surrender or return to their families.
Father Schmitz spent the last 14 years in a mountain region of the Philippines where both communist and Moslem rebels are active, Father MacDonald said. The priest operated with the trust of both sides, but he did not sympathize with either, his superior said.
Father Schmitz said in a recent letter to his family that his ”optimism remains unshaken” about the future of the Philippines under Corazon Aquino, who became president after Marcos was ousted in 1986.
Carl Schmitz, who grew up in St. Ferdinand`s Catholic parish, 5900 W. Barry St., entered the Catholic seminary system after 8th grade and was ordained in Louisville. He began his missionary career in China in the late 1940s, but was expelled during the communist takeover led by Mao Tse-tung.
He returned to the U.S. and was assigned to a parish among the poor in Alabama until 1952, when he volunteered to start a parish and school in Japan. He remained in Japan for 20 years.
In the early 1970s, Father Schmitz volunteered again, this time to work in the Philippines. He spent four years in urban regions but then ”broke out into this rugged missionary work in the mountains, which was unlike anything he had done before,” Father MacDonald said.
He characterized Father Schmitz as ”a very intriguing man, who was very proud of his stamina at age 70.”
”Nobody could keep up with him,” Father MacDonald said. ”On one hand, he was very warm, with soft brown eyes-the kind of guy you would not hesitate to approach for help. But he was also a loner, as most missionaries tend to be, and very self-sufficient.
”He was very slow to ask for help for himself and he liked to boast of the rigorous things he could still do.”
Father Schmitz is survived by his twin sister, Marian Crimmins of Elmwood Park.