3-16-11Father Steve Schultz of St. Timothy Parish in Chantilly, Va., chats with youths at the church on Ash Wednesday. The priest lost 43 pounds in a weight-loss pledge to help raise money for young parishioners to participate in World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, this August. (CNS photo/Gretchen R. Crowe, Arlington Catholic Herald)ARLINGTON, Va. –– When Fr. Steve Schultz embarked last fall on a weight-loss fundraiser to help enable teens of St. Timothy Parish in Chantilly to attend August’s World Youth Day in Madrid, he took a calculated risk.

Losing weight is never easy, and to shed 40 to 50 pounds in a very public forum seems downright daunting.

But 348 parishioners and other supporters rallied behind Fr. Schultz’s effort, pledging to give the teens anywhere from $1 to $11 per pound that he lost.

A total of $762 per pound was pledged. A total of 43 pounds was lost. For those of you playing at home, that’s a whopping $32,766 now owed to the good (and thinner) padre. It goes to show that nothing is impossible with God – as well as with a little well-placed motivation.

“Everybody was watching,” said Fr. Schultz, parochial vicar of St. Timothy. “Everybody’s still watching.”

That public accountability, combined with the knowledge that the money was going to enable so many teens to attend a spiritual event was enough to spur him on.

“I kept thinking about the reason why I was doing it,” he told the Arlington Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Arlington Diocese. “Making that sacrifice for the kids, granted it was a sacrifice I needed to make, was the motivation that kept me going.”

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee:

Milwaukee 2 Madrid is the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s planned pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, Aug. 10-22, 2011.

Young adults ages 18 to 39 are invited to travel with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki on the pilgrimage themed “Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith.”

For more information, and to register, visit tinyurl.com/22pp7zs or e-mail milwaukee2madrid@yahoo.com.

You can also join the “Milwaukee 2 Madrid” Facebook group. Your Catholic Herald has, and will continue for the next few months, featured a young adult planning to participate in the Milwaukee 2 Madrid pilgrimage to Madrid, Spain (only in print).

All of the money collected will go to offset the teens’ costs, said Kelly Flannery, St. Timothy youth minister, and letters have been sent out to inform prospective donors that it was time to reconcile.

“The money that we’re raising through Father’s sacrifice and the generosity of our parishioners is really making it possible for all of us to go,” Flannery said. “It’s not cheap to travel overseas and we’re going to go for 10 days or so. We’ll be able to participate in a lot of these activities that have been planned for us because of the fundraising.”

It’s especially beneficial for families who want to send several of their children. “That’s a great challenge on a family to be able to do that,” she said.

Aside from helping the youths, Fr. Schultz’s thinner self has more energy. He feels stronger physically and spiritually. And his clerical collar is two inches smaller.

Like any weight-loss effort, Fr. Schultz’s regime of diet and exercise wasn’t without its struggles. He’d hit plateaus; he’d occasionally gain. But, thinking about the youths, his motivation stayed strong — and they are grateful for it.

“It’s a true blessing that he’d sacrifice losing weight for us,” said Stephanie Scali, 15.

“I’m extremely grateful to Father,” said Joseph Jacobeen, 17. “It takes a big chunk out of the cost.”

“It’s really a great sacrifice,” added Mary Jacobeen, 15.

As Fr. Schultz was losing weight, the youths were not without responsibility. When their priest needed extra support, he would ask for their prayers, and the teens, said Flannery, would make good. They handwrote thank-you notes to all prospective donors and also organized monthly Holy Hours to pray for them.

“It’ll help them once we get to World Youth Day,” Flannery said. “They know each other so well now, and they’re definitely united in prayer.”

“I am so appreciative and very grateful for Father’s sacrifice and willingness to do this for the teens,” she added. “World Youth Day wouldn’t be possible without it, and it makes us appreciate the family that we have in our parish.”

Though early March marked the end of the fundraiser, Fr. Schultz’s plan is to continue losing weight in anticipation of the summer pilgrimage.

“Not only was I trying to make the trip possible for the kids and the families, I was trying to make it possible for myself,” he said. “(I want to) be able to be there for and with them, healthy and strong.”