Father Frank J. Schmitt, SJ, died Nov. 3, 2018, in St. Louis. A man who believed his vocation was “to help others love God,” he was 79 years old, a Jesuit for 61 years and a priest for 35 years.
In a characteristic move of generosity, Fr. Schmitt donated his body to the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. His life will be celebrated in a memorial Mass at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, at the Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola, Jesuit Hall, in St. Louis.
Father Schmitt was born in South Point, Mo., on April 2, 1939, to Frank G. Schmitt, Jr., and Lorene Mary Giesing Schmitt. He is preceded in death by his parents, his brother Thomas Richard Schmitt and his sister Kathleen Elizabeth Schmitt. He is survived by his brothers Robert and Edward Schmitt, 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.
He entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo., on Aug. 17, 1957, and pronounced first vows two years later. Soon after finishing the novitiate, he changed course; instead of studying for the priesthood, he began preparation as a religious brother. He worked for two years at St. Joseph Hall, Decatur, Ill., and lived as a junior brother in Milford, Ohio while he learned various trades. As a brother, he worked in maintenance at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, where he pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit brother on Aug. 15, 1973. He also served for five years at St. Stephen’s Mission in St. Stephen’s, Wyo.
In 1979, he was granted special permission to prepare for ordination to the priesthood. He was ordained at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church on June 11, 1983,
For decades, Fr. Schmitt served in pastoral ministry in numerous parishes throughout the United States. He served at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, St. Joseph Parish in Pueblo, Colo.; St. Stephen’s Mission; Sacred Heart Parish in Dangriga, Belize; St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda, Belize (as pastor from 1992 to 1999 and as associate pastor, 2011-2016); St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Denver, Colo.; Holy Rosary Mission in Pine Ridge, S.D.; Holy Apostles Parish in Colorado Springs, Colo.; St. Andrew Mission, Pendleton, Ore.; and Our Lady of Loretto in Foxfield, Colo.
In a throwaway culture, Fr. Schmitt could often be found salvaging what someone else had thrown away in his private crusade against wasteful excess. He enjoyed fixing things, and before his health declined, he worked tirelessly. He served in pastoral ministry at Jesuit Hall in St. Louis from 2016 until his death.
Father Schmitt earned a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Regis University in Denver. He studied theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., earning a Master of Divinity in 1984. He also had a certificate in stationery engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a certificate in welding from Lincoln Electric Welding School, Cleveland, Ohio. In 2003, he earned at diploma in Native American Ministries from the Sioux Spiritual Center in Howes, S.D.