'A life that preached': Bishop Sheltz celebrated, remembered and laid to rest

January 11, 2022

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo incenses the casket of Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz during his Funeral Mass on Dec. 31 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — As the late Bishop George A. Sheltz was placed into his funeral hearse, a chant of an ancient prayer suddenly filled the air.

His brother bishops and priests surrounded him while they chanted the Salve Regina, the Hail Holy Queen, a fitting send-off for Galveston-Houston’s seventh auxiliary bishop who dedicating his life to serving God and His people, especially in Texas.

At his Dec. 30 visitation and vigil, presided over by Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, loved ones came to pay their respects to Bishop Sheltz, who lay in repose in front of the altar of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.

‘The Lord is my light’

The cantor’s song from the responsorial psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation,” echoed as Bishop Sheltz’s colleagues, friends and family joined in praying Psalm 27.

A somber Bishop Dell’Oro reflected on his time with Bishop Sheltz. Though it was a short transition, in the formal sense, for the two, with Bishop Sheltz’s retirement just on the heels of Bishop Dell’Oro’s ordination as auxiliary bishop in 2021, their relationship, as with many, grew over many years.

Bishop Dell’Oro said he met Bishop Sheltz’s brother Anton, who was also a priest, before he met Bishop Sheltz. The two brothers came from “a family rich with people given to God,” he said.

With eyes like lights

Bishop Sheltz was “a man who, in his goodness, would show the closeness of the Lord to all those who had the fortune to really encounter him,” he said.

He recalled seeing him a number of days before Bishop Sheltz’s passing.

“He was happy,” Bishop Dell’Oro said, noting the late bishop’s trademark smile, how his eyes became “tiny when he smiled and sparkled like little lights.”

He recalled having the privilege of Bishop Sheltz laying his hands on him during his bishop’s ordination in June last year in the very spot he was preaching from during the vigil.

A life in sacrifice to God

Ahead of the Jan. 1 Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, Bishop Sheltz’s Dec. 31 funeral gathered many more people to honor his life, with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo presiding over the funeral Mass and Father Jeff Bame, Co-Cathedral rector, was the homilist.

“Bishop Sheltz was my pastor, my bishop and my friend,” Father Bame said in his homily. "He lived a life that preached the Gospel."

Bishop Sheltz was Father Bame’s pastor while growing up at Prince of Peace in northwest Houston where he’d receive most of his Sacraments from then-Father Sheltz, long before Father Bame’s ordination or appointment as Cardinal DiNardo’s priest-secretary, when he’d work closely with Bishop Sheltz who served as moderator of the curia.

“In over 50 years of priestly ministry, George Sheltz has reflected with his life just how great is the assistance of God’s grace and goodness,” he said. “He lived his life as a sacrifice to God.”

Several Texas bishops concelebrated the Mass, including: Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza; Bishop Brendan Cahill of Victoria; Bishop Emeritus Edmond Carmody of Corpus Christi; Bishop Dell’Oro; Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso; Bishop Michael Sis of San Angelo; Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler; Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin.

Bishop Vasquez, himself a former auxiliary bishop for Galveston-Houston, said Bishop Sheltz’s “loving service to the people of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston will be forever remembered.”

An exemplary priest

At the conclusion of the Mass, Cardinal DiNardo briefly reflected on his time with Bishop Sheltz, who served as his auxiliary bishop for nearly a decade.

Bishop Sheltz “was a great friend and just a great person,” he said. “There is a genuine and deep loss on the part of people he served and even beyond, and a loss certainly from our priests, and certainly on the part of me as the ordinary here.”

Cardinal DiNardo called Bishop Sheltz “an exemplary diocesan priest” and “a Houstonian all the way,” who “carried with him stories from the city and from the Church in this city.”

“Bishop Sheltz was an every day priest... he was a priest who served the Lord every day,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

Cardinal DiNardo also shared a message from Pietro Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican City’s Secretary of State, that said Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the Bishop Sheltz’s death.

“His Holiness joins you in giving thanks for Bishop Sheltz’s many years of devoted priestly and episcopal ministry to the Church in Galveston-Houston, and he commends his soul to the merciful love of Christ, the good shepherd,” the message said.

Nearly a year before his passing, Bishop Sheltz was inducted into St. Thomas High School Hall of Honor, the school’s highest alumni distinction.

Bishop Sheltz graduated from St. Thomas High School in 1963. School officials said they mourned the community's loss.