Mercy mission: every encounter with Dennis Schroeder includes a reminder of Jesus' love
Dennis Schroeder’s home is filled with things he loves. More mounted deer heads than you can count on your hands. Stacks of ballcaps for Windthorst High School sports teams. Enough rods and reels for a flotilla of fishing boats.
Paradoxically, what he has the most of is the thing he gives away: framed photos of the Divine Mercy image.
Schroeder has spent all his life in Windthorst. Baptized at St. Mary Parish, the 76-year-old said he’s never missed Sunday Mass, except for an occasional remote hunting trip or an illness.
His father had a dairy farm, and he and one of his brothers took over the day-to-day operations of the farm when Schroeder was a teen. For 51 years, his days were scheduled according to the cows’ needs, until he sold the farm to a nephew.
But it was in retirement that Schroeder discovered what he describes as his true purpose.
It’s not hunting or fishing, even though he fries the catfish he catches for the local senior citizens. “I like to give it away and give back,” he explained.
Although he has attended almost every game in every sport played by the Windthorst Trojans, including away games, that’s not where he finds his greatest joy.
His purpose is to spread the news of God’s mercy to each person he encounters by giving them a framed copy of the Divine Mercy image for them to keep “for inspiration.”
ONE BY ONE
Cassie Erazo was traveling south on US-281 from her home in Wichita Falls to visit her grandmother in Windthorst when her car had a flat tire.
With her eight-year-old daughter in the car and her husband out of town, Erazo thought, “The only one getting me out of this [predicament] was me.”
But within a couple of minutes, two motorists stopped to change the tire for her. One was Dennis Schroeder.
“I felt like my guardian angel was watching out for me to put this humble man in my path,” she recalled.
When her car was roadworthy again, Schroeder told her, “I want to bless you with something,” and he returned to his truck and gave her a framed portrait of Jesus, with rays of red and white extending from His heart. They talked a few minutes about Jesus and His love before they continued their separate journeys.
AN UNINTENTIONAL START
Schroeder’s Divine Mercy ministry came out of an ACTS retreat about six years ago. The leadership team shared stories about how their lives were changed by a deeper encounter with Christ and His Church.
Although Schroeder was a regular at Mass and prayed the Rosary daily, a habit instilled by his parents, he examined his life and found that some habits and priorities needed to change. “I decided to go to the Lord, to be with Him,” he said.
At the retreat, he also learned the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Two weeks later, he received a Divine Mercy image in the mail, and he framed it and put it on his kitchen table.
Schroeder explained why the image that came to St. Faustina in a vision means so much to him. “I look at the nail marks in His hands and feet. He fell three times when He was carrying the cross. Sure the cross was heavy, but He was carrying all of our sin.
“I look at the rays. I see the Passion and Easter, all in one. It’s everything He’s done for us,” Schroeder continued.
A visitor admired the beautiful photo on his kitchen table, so Schroeder ordered five copies of the image, framed them, and gave them to two friends and his three daughters.
He thought of others whom he wanted to bless and ordered 25 more. Then 50. Now he orders them 100 at a time, and he estimates he’s given away more than 1,000. He places them in frames so the iconic image will be displayed.
“I give it anytime I meet people and tell them, ‘This is what it means to me.’ I love giving that away. It’s inspiration ministry,” he said. Most recipients respond positively and often end the conversation by hugging him. His gift has been refused only twice.
A recent day began at a farmer’s market, where Schroeder gave one away to a vendor and four to fellow shoppers. Later, he went fishing at a local park and gave three to other fishermen. In the afternoon, he gave two more to travelers who stopped to pray at the parish’s grotto.
Distributing 10 in a day is more than average, but he said he won’t pass a stranded motorist without stopping to help, then sharing the gift that has helped him.
Schroeder describes himself as shy but claims his ministry is easy. “I have found my calling. The Lord does not ask much of us, but He does ask a little. This is the little I can do back for Him,” he said, his eyes brimming with tears.
His love for Jesus includes honoring His mother. The retired dairyman begins each day praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet followed by the first of three daily Rosaries.
He serves as St. Mary’s team captain for the annual Rosary Rally for America, sponsored by America Needs Fatima. This year, when St. Mary parishioners gather after the October 16 Mass to pray the Rosary, he hopes he’s joined by a group even larger than the 92 parishioners in 2019.
Never one to miss an opportunity to evangelize, Schroeder writes, “Pray the Rosary” on each piece of mail he sends out.
It’s a simple act, but it aligns with his purpose. He said, “I want to spread His word. When I meet St. Peter, I want to hear him say three words, ‘Well done, Dennis.’”