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Local residents lament damage to Notre Dame Cathedral

• Apr 18, 2019 at 3:00 PM

Norwalk resident John Schumm said it was hard to watch the TV on Monday as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned.

The retired Sandusky High School teacher is a tour guide in Europe and has taken many local residents to the cathedral.

“My phone has been ringing and my computer is full of emails as well as comments from people that I have encountered since the fire,” Schumm said. “The central theme is: We thought of you when we learned of the fire. This touched me deeply. For me, my teaching career was never just ‘textbook centered’ and now I know that I have left some heartfelt impressions.

“Notre Dame is a world symbol of medieval faith and belongs to everyone in spite of nationality or creed. I have visited "Our Lady" many times and always have a deep feeling come over me. Often I just sit in a pew or light a candle at one of the many side shrines. Yet I have had some very special moments there. 25 years ago I took a large group of students and adults and adults and we attended Holy Thursday Mass there. But it is events leading up to the Mass which were most unusual. Prior to the trip. I had read :"Choosing God-Chosen by God" written by Cardinal Lustiger of Paris. In his biography he recounted his years as a little Jewish boy in Paris and how his father had hid him in a Catholic boarding school in the south of France during the Nazi occupation. His family did not survive the war and years after he returned he became a Catholic and later a priest-ending in his role as Archbishop of Paris.

“Yet he never forgot his Jewish origins and explained how it made him a fuller Christian because he had the all encompassing knowledge of Christ. That touched me deeply for many reasons and I wrote him a letter (in French). He answered the letter and it lead to an exchange of correspondence which continued until his death. As a result of that relationship, I asked if my forthcoming tour group could attend Holy Thursday Mass at Notre Dame. The chancery arranged for us to do so and told us that we must enter the side door at a given hour. In order to do so,my chaperones and I had to move 45 people on the Paris subway at rush hour to get there on time! At the same time, there were some demonstrations in Paris and we could not get off at the closest exit to the cathedral but to make a long story short , we made it and our knock on the door was answered. We sat next to altar in a small section of pews and watched the cardinal as he washed the feet of the penitents. Once he even glanced at the students with their Sandusky High jackets and smiled. The next day, my niece and I took a special gift to the cardinal's residence and left it with a lady whom I presumed to be a housekeeper at the back garden gate. It was a silver star of David with a cross on it which was made by one of the art teachers at Sandusky High School. A month later I received a nice thank you note. I still have the packet of cards and notes that I received and now they become even more special.

“I wish that I could share many of the comments that I have received from my former students, many of whom never went to France. They have been deeply touched by the tragedy to this great edifice. Notre Dame holds a special niche in so many people's hearts. She has survived wars and revolutions and thus is a symbol of our enduring Faith. I predict that Notre Dame will rise again and will reflect our times. Perhaps this tragedy will rekindle the fervor in the hearts of many moderns who are unhappy with the present era. This will be a world effort as many of us help the people of France in this endeavor.”

Here are some of the comments Schumm received:  

As former principal of Sandusky High School, my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Europe on four occasions with the French class under the guidance of John Schumm. On each trip, we had the tremendous experience of visiting Notre Dame Cathedral. John was excellent with the students and chaperones in providing a rich background to the cathedral that enable us to have a very rewarding experience that will always be remembered.

— Michael Bailey

My recollections of visiting Norte Dame are still vivid: the Rose window, the flying buttresses, the statuary, the music, the sun playing through the stained glass and making exquisite patterns, the smell of the votive candles, the hiss of the match taking flame as one after another of us lit our votive candles, the coolness of the interior, the soft sheen of the marble statues. We were surrounded by beautiful icons of our faith, but even more we were surrounded by the best works of artists and craftsmen who honored Our Lady with the best of their gifts!

— Patricia Mellen

You so came to mind yesterday after hearing the sad news from Paris. Gentle thoughts to you, and to all in Paris, esp. this Holy Week.

— Judy Wessels

Hi Mr. Schumm!

I wanted to tell you that watching that footage was horrifying. Jillian and I are so upset. I can’t even imagine how you feel. We’re thinking of you! Jane.

— Jane Maschari Gosser (SHS-1983)

Al & I are thankful we had the opportunity to tour the Notre Dame Cathedral Spring ‘99 while chaperoning John Schumm’s Sandusky High School French students. Twenty years later, a devastating fire loss.

— Lori Peugeot


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