Jesuit Father Nicholas T. Schiro died on Aug. 4, 2018 at the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Pavilion in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. He was 90 years old, a Jesuit for 73 years and a priest for 61 years.
Born on Nov. 17, 1927, in New Orleans, where his parents operated a grocery store, he was educated at C.J. Colton Elementary School (1932-1940) and Jesuit High School (1940-44). After graduation from high school, he entered the Society on Aug. 14, 1944 at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau. Following First Vows he studied humanities in Grand Coteau. He continued his studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, earning a B.A. in English (1951) and completing his philosophy requirements. His regency was at Jesuit High School in New Orleans (1951-54) and his theology studies at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas (1954-58) where he earned the S.T.L. (1958). He was ordained to the priesthood on June 12, 1957 at St. Joseph Chapel on the Spring Hill campus. He made Tertianship at St. Stanislaus in Cleveland (1958-59) and pronounced final vows on Aug. 15, 1961 at Sacred Heart Church in Grand Coteau. During summers, he earned an M.A. in Religious Education at Loyola University in Chicago (1972).
Fr. Schiro’s ministry was almost entirely as a theology teacher in two high schools, Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas, where he worked for 14 years and Jesuit High School in New Orleans where, counting his regency, he served for 40 years. However, his very first assignments, immediately after tertianship, were as minister of the Jesuit community first at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau (1959-64) and then at the Jesuit College Preparatory in Dallas (1964-66). The Grand Coteau assignment was one that he found particularly challenging: while it showed the esteem in which he was held by superiors, such internal ministry was not the most appealing to a newly ordained priest.
When he began his ministry in Dallas, he quickly showed himself not only a skillful teacher who was popular with students, but one who became a leader in shaping the theology curriculum for Jesuit High Schools. Fr. Schiro was very much a part of the national conversation that took place among theology teachers in Jesuit schools under the leadership of the Jesuit Secondary Educational Association. He was a member of the Commission on Religious Education (CORE) which produced “Teaching for the Kingdom: Christian Formation in Jesuit Schools” (1987), a monograph offering guidelines for furthering the religious education and formation of students in Jesuit schools.
In Dallas, when the offices of president and rector were separated, Fr. Schiro was the hands-down choice of the community to be the first rector and was highly regarded in that role. Years later, he served as rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High School in New Orleans (1987-93). He was well-loved as a superior and worked to create a home-like environment. One of the benefits of having Fr. Schiro in the community was his skill as a chef: he made Italian dishes of course, but he was also a talented baker, producing delicious cakes and pies. For special occasions, he enjoyed serving Cherries Jubilee to the community with dramatic effect.
There is no question that what brought Fr. Schiro the deepest sense of satisfaction was the prayer class that he developed and taught for years. He worked on refining it and he always had more students desiring to enroll than he was able to accept. Those who took the class found that it often made an impression that stayed with them for their entire lives. He also produced a collection of prayers composed by Jesuit students, Through All the Days of Life, which, while not the first of its kind, proved very popular. It included Fr. Schiro’s adaptation of the Examination of Conscience which is still used as a way of introducing people to that practice.
Fr. Schiro saw the religious education and spiritual formation of students as the special ministry to which he had been called. He said that he found his students to be a channel of God’s grace, and that through them he experienced God’s love and support in his vocation. Generations of students found that to be reciprocal. In his classes, in his example, and in the way he dealt with them, their lives were profoundly affected.
Fr. Schiro was preceded in death by his parents, Theodore A. Schiro and Josephine Manale Schiro. He was an only child, so there are no immediate family members.