Fr. James Scheick was a welcoming priest who championed St. Edith, grew school

Fr. James Scheick, a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and longtime pastor of St. Edith Parish in Livonia, Sacred Heart Parish in Grosse Ile and St. Gerard Parish in Farmington, died Feb. 11 at the age of 86. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

LIVONIA — Known to occasionally celebrate Mass in sandals and encourage people to get involved, Fr. James Scheick made parishioners feel right at home at St. Edith Parish in Livonia.

The longtime pastor at St. Edith was described as “a little eccentric” for a priest, but always had time to listen, check in on families who recently lost a loved one and was a devoted advocate for the parish school.

His laid-back style and warm personality are what parishioners will miss most about him.

“He was one of us; that is the best thing I could say,” St. Edith parishioner Dale Mary Orsucci told Detroit Catholic. “There wasn’t a big gap between the pastor and parishioners; he was everyone’s friend. If he buried someone in your family, he didn’t forget about it. He would ask about how things were. He was very in touch with his people and everybody liked that.”

Fr. Scheick died Feb. 11. He was 86.

James Clarence Scheick was born March 2, 1937, in Monroe to Clarence G. and Clara M. (nee: Geiger) Scheick.

After earning a Bachelor’s in Philosophy at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit in 1951 and a Master’s in Theology at St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth Township in 1959, Scheick was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit by Cardinal John F. Dearden on June 1, 1963.

Fr. Scheick served as an associate pastor at St. Brigid Parish in Detroit from 1963-73 before being named pastor of St. Gerard Parish in Farmington. He stayed at St. Gerard until 1980, when he was moved to St. Edith Parish.

It was during his 20-tenure as pastor of St. Edith that he earned a reputation for “opening up” the parish and expanding the parish school from grades 1-6 to K-8. He also oversaw the construction of the current St. Edith Church in 1990.

Orsucci was on the parish council when Fr. Scheick arrived at the parish, and Fr. Scheick later hired Orsucci as the school secretary.

“We (became) a much more enlivened and spirited community,” Orsucci said. “At the time he came, the school wasn’t doing very well. Parishes with schools have an extra financial burden. Despite this fact, he embraced the school, supported the school, and grew it with a seventh- and eighth-grade and kindergarten, and the school was full the whole time he was here.”

Nicole Bono-O’Dea and her family came to St. Edith in 1977 and remembers attending school Mass with Fr. Scheick and how engaging he was with the students in the pews.

“He was someone who just liked to have fun,” Bono-O’Dea said. “Even back in grade school, a lot of the kids might have been intimidated because he had this really deep voice, but he would do the homilies in school with Q&A with the students. He had this down-to-earth manner about him and relationships with others.”

Not only did Fr. Scheick marry Bono-O’Dea to her husband, Tim, but he was also present in the couples’ VHS tape of the wedding reception.

Bono-O’Dea said Fr. Scheick had a constant relationship with her family, he even hired her when she was in high school to do secretary work at the parish, which allowed her to see another side of the priest that most Sunday churchgoers might not.

“He was just so warm and truly considered himself shepherd of the flock and took the role seriously,” Bono-O’Dea said. “He took people under his wing. I can speak most intimately to my own family experience, but you could see from how he talked to people, that he was a true parish priest.”

Fr. Scheick was assigned to be pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Grosse Ile from 2000-08 before being granted senior priest status and moving to the Senior Clergy Village in Livonia. He occasionally celebrated Mass at St. Edith as a retired priest.

During his time at Senior Clergy Village, he would often take walks in nature and host prayer meetings at his residence.

“He loved to walk and interact with nature,” Orsucci said. “He was like St. Francis of the Clergy Village, feeding the birds. There were wild turkeys, and he brought food out to them. The other priests weren’t too happy with them, because it attracted animals to the place, but he just loved nature and loved animals, because they were always around.”

Fr. Scheick is predeceased by his parents, Clarence G. and Clara M. Scheick; and his brother-in-law, Joseph Bitz. He is survived by his siblings, Shirley Bitz and Robert (Marilyn) Scheick, as well as by many nieces and nephews.

“I remember seeing a Facebook post a friend shared with the news of (Fr. Scheick's passing), and it said ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ And that really is all Fr. Jim needs to hear,” Bono-O’Dea said. “He was a man who knew his vocation, went out of his way to serve his people and really is an example for other priests to follow.”

Fr. Scheick will lie in state at Bacarella Funeral Home, 1201 S. Telegraph Rd., Monroe, MI 48161, on Monday, Feb. 19, from 3-8 p.m., with rosary at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue at St. Edith Parish, 15089 Newburgh Road, Livonia, MI 48154, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 9 a.m. until his funeral Mass at 11 a.m.

Interment will take place at St. Joseph Cemetery in Monroe.


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