Archbishop Flores Gets Surprise Gift ; Ohio Priest's Will Asks He Distribute Nearly $96,000 in Mexico

By Amy Dorsett
San Antonio Express-News (Texas)
October 9, 2004

When Father Robert Schutte died last January at age 89, he left a long list of standard beneficiaries.

However, the balance of his estate - nearly $96,000 - was earmarked for a man he'd never met with directions it be spent in a country he'd never visited.

This week, Archbishop Patrick Flores received Schutte's check from Ohio for $95,585.45, along with directions to disperse it to needy churches and missions in Mexico.

Flores, who routinely receives money from the estates of people he didn't know well, still was slightly taken aback by the bequest.

"I was hoping he would have had me spend it in the USA, but then, of course, charity doesn't end in the USA," Flores said.

By most standards, Schutte led a humble life.

When his hearing aids gave out, he refused to buy new ones. He lived in a modest home and drove an older car. No one, his sister Rita Burns said, would have guessed he had accumulated such wealth.

"He never spent money," Burns said from her Ohio home. "He didn't want so much money being associated with a priest. There was no show of anything."

Schutte, one of nine children, had a long fascination with the poverty that afflicts many Mexican families. Never, though, did he visit the country, and Burns doesn't think he ever traveled to San Antonio. Flores doesn't recall having met the late priest.

"All his life he was interested in helping the Mexican people," Burns said. "He just felt sorry for them and felt they were neglected."

While teaching high school, Schutte tried to get students interested in the stock market. In the end, it was he who took an interest, quietly investing money over the years. Some of his investments came from other priest's estates.

Attorney Bob Wineberg, who oversaw Schutte's estate, said the priest was embarrassed to have accumulated so much money.

"He was sheepish about a priest having the amount of money he had upon his death," Wineberg said. "It was quite a will. There were numerous bequests to more than 20 people."

After his bills had been settled and money doled out to past parish churches, priests and relatives, he directed Wineberg to send the balance to Flores.

Schutte's life didn't escape controversy. In the month before he died of pneumonia, he was placed on administrative leave following allegations of sexual abuse of a minor several decades ago, according to a Cincinnati-based Catholic newspaper.

Burns clearly is disappointed by the accusations.

"I have no idea if it's true or untrue," she said. "Everybody's looking for an extra dollar these days."

Flores said he's asked people to suggest Mexican charities that could benefit from Schutte's estate, and he's particularly interested in helping out some orphanages there.

"We're not going to give a big amount," he said. "We want to give to a lot of people."

Burns, who said her brother didn't realize how much money he had accumulated at the time of his death, would be pleased to know that such a grand amount is headed to Mexico.

"He'd want it spent wherever it's necessary, " she said.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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