During his junior and senior years at Fairfield Preparatory School, William Scheyd was planning to attend college to study business. He was accepted by Boston College and Fairfield University.

Something happened, though, during a spiritual retreat in the fall of 1956. A Jesuit priest asked Scheyd if was interested in the priesthood. The question planted a seed, but Scheyd didn't change his course -- at least not immediately.

"I told him I wasn't sure, but I didn't really think so," Scheyd said. "When I got back from the retreat, things started to percolate a little bit in my mind about should I try it. Back in those days, you usually went from high school to the seminary and then on to college."

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Fast forward to today.

This year, Scheyd, the pastor of St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan for the past 13 years, is celebrating his 50th year as a priest, in a ministry that has included being pastors of Norwalk and Stamford and the cathedral in Bridgeport.

A lengthy career

Scheyd was ordained by Bishop Walter Curtis on Feb. 10, 1965, in St. Augustine Cathedral Parish in Bridgeport, and spent the first 17 years of his career in Norwalk as a priest at St. Mary's and St. Thomas the Apostle churches in the that city.

In 1982, Scheyd was made pastor of the Cathedral of St. Augustine in Bridgeport by then Bishop Walter Curtis, a post he held until 1990.

While remaining a diocesan priest, since 1988, he has served as vicar general under the succession of four bishops beginning with Curtis, a position in which he serves as advisor to the bishop on diocesan business and also as a communication link between priests in the western part of the diocese and the bishop.

"I'm involved in all the functions of the diocese as I have the power to act in his place during the absence of the bishop," Scheyd said. "It's been a lot of work and activities and meetings and functions in addition to being pastor of a large parish."

After spending a decade at St. Thomas's Church of the Apostle in East Norwalk, Scheyd was named pastor of St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan in 2003 by then Bishop William Lori.

An ongoing challenge at the parish and for the wider church has been keeping parishioners engaged and participating in the diverse range of ministries at the church, from singing in the choir to visiting the homebound and assisting the needy through food collection, he said.

"I think one of the great challenges, not just for the Catholic Church but all churches, is to cultivate a larger and more involved membership," Scheyd said. "If people want to be active Catholics they should come to church but also live out the gospel. It's not a checking in and checking out for 45 minutes on Sunday."

The parish is planning to hold a parish celebration to honor Scheyd in the form of a dinner from 7 to 11 p.m. March 14 at the Italian Center of Stamford, 1625 Newfield Ave., said Christine Ayoub, chairwoman of the parish council.

During his time at the parish, Scheyd has been important in guiding the lay leadership's efforts to get more Catholics to take part in retreats and volunteer for charitable efforts, including food and clothing drives under the umbrella of the parish, Ayoub said.

"He has always said if something doesn't work we'll redo or change it," she said. "He's encouraged people to try new things and also been a good navigator."

In January, at age 75, under church law, Scheyd submitted a letter of resignation to Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano. Scheyd expects Caggiano to take action on the letter sometime next year, and doesn't expect to be a full-time diocesan pastor at St. Aloysius Church much beyond early 2016, he said.

Scheyd expects to then live at Queen of the Clergy retirement home in Stamford, but even in retirement, priests fill in where they are needed.

"I've worked hard over the 50 years I've been a priest, and while you obviously don't accomplish everything in life you want to, it has been an ongoing ministry of trying to bring people to God and show them the value of the church," Scheyd said. "Most retired priests continue to help out."

Scheyd said looking back that the example of his parents helped set his course in life.

Growing up in Bridgeport, his father, a human resources executive for Stanley Works, and his mother, a nurse, were active in St. Ann's Church and instilled in him a sense that a central goal in life is helping others.

"I think that you bring to the priesthood who you are and my family raised me to be a person for others," Scheyd said. "Both my mother and father were active in church but they didn't compel me to be a priest. Their faith was not oppressive. It was a comfortable thing."