Pastors Carl Scherrer and Nick Fleming will both soon be stepping away from Immaculate Conception Church in Columbia, signaling a changing of the guard for the Catholic parish.
Scherrer leaving his position as pastor at Immaculate Conception also marks his retirement following 49 years in the priesthood.
Looking back on his career, Scherrer recalled that the inspiration to become a priest first came from his own hometown pastor who told him one day that he would make a good one.
After attending three different seminaries, Scherrer was ordained in September 1973. He then served as pastor at seven parishes over the years, including St. Peter’s Cathedral, St. John’s in Red Bud and Corpus Christi in Shiloh.
He ultimately ended up at Immaculate Conception in 2003, where he has remained for 19 years.
Scherrer recalled a number of fond memories he’s accumulated in Columbia over the two decades he’s been pastor – including how he’s been able to see the first person he met at the parish grow up.
“My first memory was my first day here,” Scherrer said. “When I was unpacking some of my belongings, this girl, a student at ICS, maybe third or fourth grade, came out and asked me if I needed help. And so she helped me carry some of my boxes in.”
He also joked about how, on his second day in Columbia, now-retired Immaculate Conception School Principal Mike Kish informed him that they would be building a new church, an undertaking Scherrer had already experienced at a previous parish.
“He was giving me a tour of the parish facilities,” Scherrer said, “and as he went into church, which was the one on South Main at the time, he said ‘It looks like we’re probably gonna be building a new church.’ And my jaw kind of dropped and my heart skipped a beat. I was like ‘Oh my goodness, what am I getting into here?’”
Scherrer looked back fondly on his time at Immaculate Conception, a parish that has grown significantly during his time there.
Scherrer said he is especially happy with the values and goals he believes have become a major part of the parish.
“I like to use the phrase a lot of the time that I want this to be a parish where everybody is somebody and nobody is a nobody,” Scherrer said. “That everybody is an important member of the parish and nobody is second string. Everybody’s first string.”
Fleming also commented on Scherrer – specifically as the elder pastor has played a major mentorship role for him during his brief time at Immaculate Conception.
“He’s been like the calm and steady hand through everything,” Fleming said. “He has been more than gracious with me to kind of show me how to do things. He’s more than open to questions. He’s a very patient guy, just a loving guy. He’s been a real father to me, I would say.”
While Scherrer said he will be doing work predominantly in St. Louis in the future, he will still come by Immaculate Conception to visit and assist on occasion.
For the most part, however, he plans on spending a great deal of time reflecting during his retirement.
“It’s time for me to be less Martha and more Mary,” Scherrer said. “Martha was the busy one always doing things and it’s time now to be more reflective in what I call the second half of life.”
An open house to celebrate Father Carl’s retirement takes place from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, July 10, in the ICS gym.
Fleming will be leaving after nearly three years with Immaculate Conception. He was assigned to oversee Holy Childhood and St. Liborius in Mascoutah and St. Libory, respectively.
For Fleming, Immaculate Conception was his first parish where he was a priest and served in an official capacity. He originally came to the church as a deacon in 2019.
“I would say that I came in with a lot of nervousness and a lot of fear and uncertainty,” Fleming said. “But what I can say is the people have just been amazing, and I could not have asked for a better place to learn the ropes.”
A celebration of Fleming’s time at Immaculate Conception will be held at the ICS playground this Saturday, June 25, from 1-2:30 p.m.
Replacing Scherrer and Fleming will be Steve Thoma, who is originally from St. Louis, and Eric Wagner, who has worked at Immaculate Conception in the past.
Thoma will take on the role of pastor while Wagner, who will be teaching scripture in St. Louis full-time, will assist.