Longtime organist was a business exec with zest for life

Generosity of time, talent, treasure were hallmarks of accompanist Sage Ann Scheer

Roxanne King

Sage Ann Scheer, a trained classical pianist who shared her talents as organist at Denver’s Risen Christ Church for more than 40 years, died April 26. She was 71.

While most of her fellow parishioners knew Scheer as a dedicated organist, many were unaware that she had a doctorate in marketing and systems design. Throughout her career, Scheer held leadership positions ranging from senior partner to president for educational firms. Companies she served included EDmin, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, The Learning Systems Group and The University of Phoenix.

“Sage was a real lady” and “a high-powered executive,” Diane D’Aquila said about her older sister.

“She always took the high road, didn’t sing her own praises much and never said a bad word about anybody. She was incredibly generous — a big philanthropist, especially to the Anchor Center for Blind Children.… She loved to travel, loved to shop and was a spiffy dresser.”

The longtime Denver resident was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 12, 1948. Her family moved to Minneapolis, Minn., when she was in high school. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. from The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was married to Roger Scheer for 38 years until he died in 2012.

“She was really well loved,” D’Aquila said. “She and Roger didn’t have any children, but she was like Auntie Mame to nieces and nephews.”

“No one in Sage’s sphere of influence ever lacked for anything, not did anyone feel less than perfectly adored,” Scheer’s niece Alex Johnson wrote in an obituary. “Her door always was open, as was her wine cellar. She like to write long, effusive letters to her loved ones, and when her handwriting started to fail, she would type them out. She loved her dogs, her garden, and her Denver Broncos.” 

Scheer loved to laugh and have fun, D’Aquila said, but she was also a devout Catholic and a daily communicant.

“[Former pastor] Msgr. [J. Anthony] McDaid said that when he first took over Risen Christ Parish, they had to do some job shuffling for economic reasons so Sage started to be paid only for Sunday Masses, but she continued to play for daily Mass. He was so grateful.

“That was Sage. She went to daily Mass and music is a form of prayer, so why wouldn’t she play? In her mind, it was the right thing to do.”

Scheer was openhanded with her time, talent and treasure, family and friends said.

“She was so generous with her time and talent, despite working and traveling,” said Jeanne Iske, Risen Christ’s director of music and liturgy coordinator. “When she was working she would often be traveling out of town Monday through Friday, and no matter what time she got back in Friday night she would be at Risen Christ at the organ in time for Saturday morning Mass.

Plus, she would play at weekend Masses.

“She was just a wonderful person. Very committed to Risen Christ and being part of this parish. She was an organist here, but she was also a parishioner: if we needed cakes for the fall festival, she made cakes. If we needed soup for soup night, she made soup. You could count on Sage to do anything and everything — she would do it all.”

Former Risen Christ music director Bill Kittle agreed.

“She was a bright, enthusiastic, totally giving person with the biggest heart—the most loving person you’d want to meet. She was a classy person. She was ever so enthusiastic about life and about making music. I’ve never met another person quite like her, so giving of all of her talents.”

Risen Christ pastor Father Scott Bailey described Scheer as “a prayerful person.”

“In those last months as I’d visit her, she would turn the conversation to prayer and how good God is, even in her suffering,” he said.

As her sister battled cancer the last few months of her life, Father Bailey, Msgr. McDaid, parochial vicar Father Eric Zegeer, and the parish community showered Scheer with Communion visits and attention, D’Aquila said.

“The care they showed my sister is something I will never forget and will be eternally grateful for,” she said. “The cancer took its toll, but her spirit and her soul were extraordinarily healthy because of the love and prayers given her by the community. If there’s such a thing as God walks among us, I’ve experienced that [through them].”

COMING UP: Repenting and renewing our role as shepherds

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Jesus tells the disciples in St. John’s Gospel, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,” contrasting his goodness with the thieves who come only to steal and destroy.  This past week my fellow U.S. bishops and I sought to act as good shepherds by approving three measures to increase our vigilance and prevention of the evil of sexual abuse by bishops, shepherds who have betrayed the flock entrusted to them.

This last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day, which should remind biological and spiritual fathers of their great responsibility of protecting and raising up new life. This mission is further emphasized by the Rite for the Ordination of a Bishop, which says, “In the Church entrusted to you, be a faithful steward, moderator and guardian of the mysteries of Christ. Since you are chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful always of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.” This is the model for all bishops.

But the scandals of Theodore McCarrick, Bishop Bransfield and others have made it clear that our vigilance has not been adequate. To quote from the just-issued “Affirming Our Episcopal Commitment” statement, “We, the bishops of the United States, have heard the anger expressed by so many within and outside of the Church over these failures.  The anger is justified; it has humbled us, prompting us into self-examination, repentance, and a desire to do better.” This sentiment was clear in my interactions with my fellow bishops in Baltimore this past week.

As evidence of our commitment, we overwhelmingly passed a set of directives for the bishops’ conference to implement Pope Francis’ Vos estis lux mundi document on handling abuse by priests and bishops. These directives include the creation by May 31, 2020 of a third-party phone and online system that receives reports of potential violations by bishops, the establishment of a protocol in which the Holy See designates and authorizes metropolitan archbishops to investigate cases of alleged abuse by bishops, and the expectation that the investigating bishop involve lay experts in assisting with these inquiries. For any investigations that falls under my jurisdiction, I will ensure that lay experts are involved, as I’ve done throughout my time as a bishop. As the new directives indicate, I will also appoint a lay person to receive complaints from the third-party reporting system, publicize how to make reports, ascertain the credibility of reports and gather any additional information necessary for an investigation to commence.

I also want to highlight that the bishops overwhelmingly approved protocols for imposing limitations on former bishops who were removed from office for grave reasons and that we adopted a code of conduct for bishops, which explicitly states that the Dallas Charter will now include bishops.

All these measures are in addition to those we have been enforcing since 2002 in relation to preventing sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Archdiocese of Denver has a strong track record of actively working to protect children, including annual audits, background checks of employees and clergy, and a code of conduct that previous bishops and I have all signed, and a robust training program aimed at fostering safe environments for children. The effectiveness of these measures over the past 20 years has made us a model for other institutions seeking to combat abuse.

Pope Francis rightly noted in a January 2019 personal letter to the U.S. bishops that the consequences of our failures cannot be fixed by being administrators of new programs or committees.  They can only be resolved by humility, listening, self-examination and conversion.

My brother bishops and I hope that by obeying the Word of God, seeking the will of the Father and embracing what the Church expects of us, we will imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Read more

Pope Francis’ motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi can be read at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html

The USCCB Directives implementing Vos estis can be read at: http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/2019-june-meeting/upload/usccb-modified-amended-directives-2019-06.pdf

Reach out

Christi Sullivan serves as the Protection Specialist for the Office of Child and Youth Protection and can be reached at 303-715-3241 or Christi.Sullivan@archden.org.

Victims of abuse can reach out to Dr. Jim Langley, the Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 720-239-2832 or Victim.Assistance@ArchDen.org.