Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Rest in Peace: Father Ralph Schwemin
the Inland Register
(From the Nov. 12, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Schwemin (IR file photo)
Father Ralph Schwemin, 95 years old and a priest of the Spokane Diocese for 68 years, was found dead in his home in Spokane the morning of Nov. 1.
“On the occasion of Father Schwemin’s death, I express prayerful sympathy to his family,” said Bishop Skylstad.
“Even in his years of retirement, he was an avid student of Sacred Scripture. Last week he proudly pointed out to me that he had just finished reading the Book of Isaiah in Hebrew. Besides his pastoral skills, he was noted for his religious artistry with a welding torch,” creating religious art and fixtures for the churches where he served.
“I express to Father Shwemin’s family our prayerful sympathy and thanks to God for the gift of his life and ministry. May he rest in peace, in the eternal life to which he looked forward, especially these last few years.”
Father Schwemin is survived by his half-brother, Joseph Renggli, and half-sister, Mary Van Allen, both of Clarkston, Wash..
The vigil was Nov. 3 at St. Thomas More Parish, Spokane, where he had been a parishioner for the last 15 years of his retirement. The funeral Mass was celebrated there the next day. Burial at Holy Cross Cemetery followed the Mass.
He was born in Ferdinand, Idaho, and grew up in Clarkston, Wash. He was ordained a priest on May 25, 1941, after 12 years of study at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio.
He first served as assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Spokane, before being named pastor of the parishes in Dayton and Waitsburg in 1946. He used his woodworking skills to create some of the first furnishings for the Dayton church, including the crucifix and baptismal font. He also built the rectory there, performing much of the work single-handed.
In 1956 he was named pastor of St. Mary of the Rosary, Chewelah, where he served two years before moving to Assumption, Spokane, where he again served as the first pastor.
In 1964 Bishop Topel named him diocesan television director. He hosted a weekly program, From the Pastor’s Study, for eight years on KHQ-TV. Earlier he had hosted a Sunday morning radio program on the Bible for station KFPY.
In 1974 he was named pastor of Mary Queen Parish, Spokane, where he served until retirement in 1983.
Father Schwemin was proficient in several languages, including Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Hebrew.
He was interviewed by the Inland Register when he retired in 1983.
In that interview, he said that the priesthood had taught him that “people come first, everything else is secondary.
“I don’t think I’ve been angry at a person in the last four years,” he said. “There is so much beauty and dignity in another person that I am very reluctant to soil God’s creation with my anger.”