In Memory of
Most Reverend
Fr. Valentine T. Schaaf
Link to OFM Site in Rome
113th. Minister General
Order of Friars Minor
Fr. Valentine's
Religious Life

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On August 15, 1901, at the age of 18, Theodore Schaaf entered the novitiate in the Order of Friars Minor (The Franciscans) at the Friary of Saint Anthony in Mt. Airy in Cincinnati, Ohio. Four years later, on September 8, 1905, he made his Solemn Profession of the Rule of St. Francis and adopted the name of St. Valentine. Following theological studies, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1909, by Bishop Denis O'Donaghue, at Holy Family Seminary in Oldenburg, Indiana.

As a young priest, Fr. Valentine (at right in the photo, with his brother, Fr. Constantine Schaaf, O.F.M.) taught at St. Francis Preparatory High School (or "Seminary") - where he himself had graduated.

Math and languages were his courses, perhaps pointing to the remainder of his life, which was destined to be largely academic. "... we understand whence came that love of method and accuracy that so characterized his later professional work.", writes Fr. Mathias Faust in his 1946 Circular Letter memorializing Fr. Valentine.

After teaching for 9 years at St. Francis Prep., and just at the end of the 1st. World War, Fr. Valentine was sent to the Catholic University in Washington, D.C. He enrolled in the Canon Law school and graduated summa cum laude.

 

In 1921 the degree of Juris Canonicum Doctor (Doctor of Canon Law -- "JCD") was awarded to Fr. Valentine.

Returning to the Cincinnati Province, Fr. Valentine spent 2 years at Oldenburg as Lector in theology, and then was called back to the Catholic University as an associate Professor of Canon Law. While teaching there, many of the articles written by Fr. Valentine were published in leading ecclesiastical reviews. During this period, Fr. Valentine became recognized as a leading authority in canonical jurisprudence.

The value of Fr. Valentine's work is evidenced by his appointment, in 1933, as Dean of the Canon Law faculty at the Catholic University in Washington. He served in this position until 1937. Called upon to participate in the International Congress of Jurisprudence in 1934, Fr. Valentine made his first visit to Rome. He returned to Washington, where, until 1939, he continued his duties as Professor, and was also elected to the office of the order's Provincial Definitorium. Later that same year, Fr. Valentine was elected General Definitor for the English-speaking Friars, with residence in Rome (thus becoming a member of the General Definitorium of the Order.)

With World War II already underway in Europe, this appointment was, in effect, a sentence of exile from the U.S.A. Never one to waste time, Fr. Valentine assumed teaching duties at the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum, and maintained his literary output. In 1940 he was appointed a Consultor to the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments. In late 1944, as the war was drawing to a close, the Minister General of the Order, Most Rev. Fr. Leonard Maria Bello, died. Fr. Valentine was selected by Pope Pius XII to become Minister General

(Ed. Note: the "Ordinary" of a canonically erected Order is, within that Order, ranked as Bishop, thus the use of the honorific "Most Reverend.")

From Fr. Faust's letter . . .
"On the memorable Feast of St. Bonaventure of the year 1945, the Holy See named and committed the seal of the Order to His Paternity Most Reverend Fr. Valentine Schaaf, as Minister General of the Whole Order of Friars Minor. For the first time, the full authority of that high office was entrusted to a native American. Moreover, that power had the signal distinction being given in virtue of the solemn 'obedience and reverence, promised by our Holy Father Saint Francis to the Lord Pope Honorius and to his successors canonically elected, and to the Roman Church' (Rule, C. I)' "
Fr. Faust also writes that the "..... response was so spontaneous and prevailing that the Order of Friars Minor ". . . will ever know and recognize the eminent spiritual qualities of the leader singled out by Divine Providence."

A few images from the last months of Fr. Valentine's life are found here ---
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This Website's content is largely compiled from photos and historical information contributed by Annabelle Coughlin Laudeman, great-niece of Fr. Valentine, inherited from her paternal grandmother, Dorothea Schaaf-Coughlin-Schmidt, sister of Fr. Valentine. Other images and information are credited where the source is known.

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Last updated: Sunday, June 1, 2008 16:58 Eastern