Jesuit Father Frank J. Schmitt died on Nov. 3, 2018, at the SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 79 years old, a Jesuit for 61 years and a priest for 35 years.
Born in South Point, Missouri, on April 2, 1939, he attended St. Francis Borgia for grammar school and high school, graduating in 1957. He entered the Society as a scholastic at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, Missouri, on August 17, 1957. After First Vows and Juniorate studies at Florissant, he changed grades from scholastic to brother, and, after two years working at St. Joseph Hall, the tertianship in Decatur, Illinois, began studies as a junior brother at Milford, Ohio. While there he trained at the Ohio Mechanics Institute. He then trained at Lincoln Electric Welding School in Cleveland. He worked at St. Joseph Hall in Decatur before spending eight years at DeSmet Jesuit High in St. Louis (1966-74), mainly doing maintenance and managing the book store. He then worked in maintenance at St. Stephen’s Mission in St. Stephen’s, Wyoming (1974-79). His tertianship at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan (1972) and his final vows at DeSmet High (August 15, 1973) were as a Jesuit brother. In 1979, he asked for and received permission to begin preparation for ordination to the priesthood. He began his studies for the priesthood at Regis University in Denver, where he earned a B.A. in philosophy (1980). His theology studies were at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California (1980-84) where he earned the M.Div. (1984). His ordination was at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church on June 11, 1983.
Fr. Schmitt’s primary ministry was pastoral, and he served in several different places and in various capacities. He was associate pastor at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis; St. Joseph Parish in Pueblo, Colorado; St. Stephen’s Mission in St. Stephen’s, Wyoming; Sacred Heart Parish in Dangriga, Belize; St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Denver; Holy Rosary Mission in Pine Ridge, South Dakota; Holy Apostles Parish in Colorado Springs, Colorado; St. Andrew Mission, Pendleton, Oregon; and Our Lady of Loretto in Foxfield, Colorado. He served as Pastor at St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda, Belize (1992- 99) and returned there as associate pastor (2011-2016). He also served as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in El Reno, Oklahoma. In 2016, he returned to St. Louis where he resided at the Jesuit Hall Community and was available as a pastoral minister.
Fr. Schmitt’s path was not an easy one; after his first four years in the Society, his change to Jesuit brother from studying for priesthood was done at the advice of superiors due to concerns about his health and the stress that studies were causing him. However, in 1978, while working at St. Stephen’s Mission in Wyoming, he felt that God was calling him to once again step onto the path leading to the priesthood. He began the process of petitioning for this, acknowledging that he was making the request very much aware of his own inadequacy, even fearing the consequences of the decision. Still, as he wrote at the time, he felt a reassurance that God would be with him, despite his fears and inadequacies. He saw this as in line with a calling he had felt since he was a boy: “The only thing I have ever wanted to do was to help others love God.”
His outlook tended to be simple and direct and could put him at odds with Jesuit sophistication. In a culture of excess, he was a crusader against waste; he could often be found salvaging what someone else had thrown away or turning off lights. He always enjoyed fixing things and similar tasks. Before physical ailments limited his energy, he was a tireless worker.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Frank G. Schmitt, Jr. and Lorene Mary Giesing, his brother Thomas Richard and his sister Kathleen Elizabeth. He is survived by his brothers Robert and Edward and his sisters Patricia Ann Arnold-Hapner, Martha Schmitt, Anne Marie Welsh, Susan Bernadette Langstratt, Barbara Mary Moran, Christine Marie Price, and Margaret Rose Warwick. Fr. Schmitt donated his body to the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.