The funeral Mass for retired Benedictine Abbot Christopher Schwartz will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at St. Andrew Abbey in Cleveland.
Abbot Schwartz, 76, died on Feb. 17 at Regina Health Center in Richfield, where he had lived for the past eight years. He had been a professed Benedictine monk for 49 years and was a priest for 48 years.
Born June 28, 1946 as Robert Schwartz, he was the oldest son of the late Frank and Gertrude Schwartz. The family belonged to St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Parma, where the abbot attended elementary school. He graduated from St. John Cantius High School in 1964.
While discerning a vocation to the diocesan priesthood, Abbot Schwartz spent two years attending Cuyahoga Community College. He was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Cleveland and earned a degree in history from Borromeo College Seminary in Wickliffe.
During his third year at Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology, the abbot acknowledged a call to the Benedictine monastic life and entered the novitiate at St. Andrew Abbey in the summer of 1972, shortly before he was to be ordained as a deacon. He received the religious name of Christopher and professed his first vows as a monk on July 15, 1973. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1974, and professed his solemn vows as a Benedictine monk on July 20, 1975.
As Father Christopher, he was a popular freshman world history and theology teacher 1973-1991 at Benedictine High School in Cleveland. During his 18 years on the faculty, he also served as school chaplain, athletic chaplain, Student Council moderator and moderator of five graduating classes.
In addition, he served at the abbey as director of junior professed monks, vocation director, subprior and prior (1988-1991).
Abbot Schwartz learned to celebrate the Ruthenian Byzantine rite and Maronite rite liturgies and assisted at Eastern rite churches as well as providing weekend assistance at St. Michael Parish in Independence.
In 1991, then-Father Christopher was appointed pastor of Assumption Parish in Broadview Heights, which has been administered by the Benedictines since 1977. He led the parish and its school for 13 years, initiating such projects at perpetual Eucharistic adoration, building a new addition to the school and constructing a Garden of Memories with an outdoor shrine to the Blessed Mother.
Suffering from poor health at intervals throughout his life, he resigned as pastor in 2004 and for the next two years served as resident chaplain to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word in Parma Heights. After returning to the abbey in 2006, he was named subprior. When Abbot Clement Zeleznik, OSB resigned as abbot in 2008, Father Christopher was elected the sixth abbot. He was blessed by Bishop Richard Lennon on Aug. 29, 2008 in Assumption Church.
Abbot Schwartz served the Benedictine Order of Cleveland for only five years – the shortest tenure of any of the abbots -- yet he oversaw construction of the much-anticipated Bossu Athletic Field, formalized the community’s sponsorship of the Loyola Retreat House in Clinton, Ohio and had to deal with the unexpected deaths of two key abbey personnel, the monastic business manager and his predecessor.
In 2011, Abbot Schwartz was granted a sixth-month leave of absence for health reasons. When he returned in June 2011, he resumed his administrative duties. In the fall of 2012, the abbot underwent open-heart surgery. After a special visitation of the community in the summer of 2013, he stepped down as abbot. Continuing health problems caused him to move to Regina Health Center soon after, where he remained until his death.
Those who knew him said Abbot Schwartz had a friendly personality and a soft-spoken nature that made him approachable by people of all ages. They said he exercised his roles in the Benedictine community with humility and modesty.
Survivors include his younger brother James (Glenda) Schwartz.
Burial will be Feb. 24 in Calvary Cemetery, Cleveland.