Fr. Schwab, center, celebrates a Mass at St. Frederic Church in St. Helens in 1998. Frs. Arnold Beezer and Joe Beno concelebrate. (Denise Hogan/Catholic Sentinel)
Fr. Schwab, center, celebrates a Mass at St. Frederic Church in St. Helens in 1998. Frs. Arnold Beezer and Joe Beno concelebrate. (Denise Hogan/Catholic Sentinel)
Father Elwin Schwab, 85, was ordained May 21, 1960, at St. Mary Cathedral, by Archbishop Edward Howard. He became an enthusiastic proponent of ecumenism, social justice, Biblical and catechetical literacy, and, in general, religious education for adults as well as children.

A priest with deep roots in the Archdiocese of Portland, Father Schwab is a descendant of Louis and Josephine Schwab. They settled in Mount Angel in 1881 and assisted the Benedictine monks in founding Mount Angel Abbey.

Many of the Schwabs’ descendants became women religious or priests.

Born July 31, 1934, in Portland, Father Schwab studied at Mount Angel Seminary and St. Edward and St. Thomas Seminaries in Kenmore, Washington.

His first three posts were as associate pastor of Holy Cross Parish in North Portland; St. Mary Parish, Eugene; and St. Monica Parish in Coos Bay.

In 1966, when he was at Holy Cross, he was a leader in the “Living Room Dialogue” effort, in which people from various churches got together to talk, both seriously and socially. Father Schwab argued that the exercise enhanced faith. “Everyone taking part came out more convinced their religion is the right one,” he said.

He briefly served as coordinator of adult education for the archdiocese before being named pastor of Our Lady of the Mountain Parish in Ashland in 1973.

Father Schwab took a three-month sabbatical in 1977, attending classes at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. The Catholic Sentinel printed a series titled “Jerusalem Safari” with his observations from Israel and beyond. He wrote about finding a serene place for contemplation in bustling Jerusalem; the foreboding Sinai, with its steep-walled canyons and startling oases; and his sense of displacement at the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on the water and water-skiers frolicked on the day he visited.

Upon his return to Oregon, Father Schwab was pastor to a brand-new parish in Central Point. The January 1979 Catholic Sentinel story began, “A few days ago the sign out front said Farmer Ben's Fruit Stand. Now the building is the home of Shepherd of the Valley Parish, a year-old Southern Oregon parish.”

After Central Point, Father Schwab became pastor of St. Frederic Parish in St. Helens. In 1996, at the local celebration of the archdiocese’s sesquicentennial celebration, Father Schwab reminded parishioners they were an essential part of the living history of the church, and that they continued the process of each generation teaching its children and passing on the Catholic tradition and faith. “The Holy Spirit continues to be with each one of us,” he said.

Father Schwab’s next assignment was as pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Forest Grove. There, in 2002, he acknowledged that he “screwed up,” blessing a relationship between a couple and a single woman.

“He's a well-respected priest where he’s been in the past," Bud Bunce, former communications director for the archdiocese told the Associated Press. “He made one mistake, and he's acknowledged that.”

Father Schwab resigned his position as pastor. He was reassigned later that year as assistant pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Roseburg.

In 2009 he was named priest moderator at St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland. Parishioners there feted him on the occasion of his 50th jubilee. In 2016 he was named administrator of St. Charles, where he continues to serve today.

He is seen as one of the great wits of the archdiocesan priest corps.