NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Many across Louisiana are mourning the loss of former Archbishop Francis Bible Schulte, 89, who led some 370,000 Catholics for 12 years prior to Katrina.
Schulte passed away quietly Sunday in his hometown of Philadelphia. He came to New Orleans in 1989 during a time of change.
"He was here during the abuse crisis," said Archbishop Gregory Aymond, "and it was painful, but he dealt with it in an effective way."
Schulte was educated at Harvard and Oxford, and though his roots were in the large Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Schulte was not one to seek the limelight.
"He was a sweet, pleasant man. I marched with him. My eyes watered when you called his name," said New Orleans pastor Marie Galatas.
"Archbishop Schulte was very quiet. Sometimes the public scene was difficult for him," said Aymond.
Schulte served New Orleans' 370,000 Catholics for 12 years and was known as a man who didn't shy away from controversy.
"He was very active in the pro-life movement and helped us in our structure of our Archdiocese to become more effective and efficient," said Aymond.
Schulte had some big shoes to fill when he came here in 1989, succeeding the very popular Archbishop Philip Hannan, who served for 24 years.
"It was very difficult. Archbishop Hannan was larger than life and deeply loved," said Aymond.
Schulte was known as a great administrator and a man of prayer who helped steer the New Orleans Archdiocese through a time of demographic change.
"Parishes were changing and the participation in parishes - and he grappled with those things," said Aymond.
He and current Archbishop Gregory Aymond were close.
"I knew him very well. I was rector of the seminary and was his auxiliary bishop for many years," said Aymond.
Schulte gained Archbishop emeritus status when he retired in 2002, and unlike Hannan, stepped out of the church limelight. He died in a Philadelphia retirement home, but his remains will likely be brought to New Orleans next week.
"We will have the funeral here in New Orleans, but they will also have mass in Philadelphia," said Aymond.
Schulte served as superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia, and he served as Archbishop of Wheeling, West Virginia, before coming to New Orleans. He served as a priest for 62 years. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.
Baton Rouge Bishop Robert W. Muench sent the following statement Monday evening:
"Archbishop Francis Bible Schulte was quintessentially a man of God and a man of the Church. He was a genuinely spiritual, prayerful and Christ-like person, who deeply embraced his call as baptized/confirmed disciple of Jesus, and ordained deacon, priest, bishop and archbishop of the Catholic faith. Gifted with an incredibly brilliant intellect, he was a clear and forceful teacher of that faith, an eloquent preacher of the Word (who could speak spontaneously like an accomplished poet), a talented and dedicated administrator, and a skilled executive who utilized process as his style of leading. He was also an engaging conversationalist, with an acute sense of humor.
"To me personally he was a very specially treasured friend, mentor, inspiration and companion whom I will always remember with deep fondness and gratitude. May he rest in peace of the risen Christ."