A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. J. Robert (Bob) Hilbert, SJ
May 1, 2013 – It was the middle of World War II when the young Bob Hilbert graduated from Creighton Prep and entered the Society of Jesus. Ordained in 1956, he went on to teach at Marquette University High School (Milwaukee); serve as rector at Campion Jesuit High School (Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin); teach and serve as superior at St. Francis Mission (South Dakota); and serve as director at the Emmaus Center (Des Moines).
“I knew very early in life that I wanted to be a Jesuit,” he recalls. “It fit perfectly into my personal desires to be a priest and a teacher – an ideal combination for me.”
Being a Jesuit also means living a life infused with Ignatian spirituality, and Fr. Hilbert was able to share this gift abundantly during his next assignments – in pastoral ministry at St. Stephen’s Mission in Wyoming, and as assistant for pastoral and retreat ministries at the Province office in Milwaukee.
For example, while at St. Stephen’s, Fr. Hilbert started offering twice-monthly Saturday morning retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises to the Native Americans there. The sessions became so well regarded that people from other towns began joining them.
Pervading these and all of Fr. Hilbert’s ministries has been a tremendous reverence for the work of the Holy Spirit in each person. When giving retreats, he emphasized that participants shouldn’t look to him or other sources for their answers, but to the Holy Spirit. “When the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something, we need to listen,” he asserts.
“God calls us all,” Fr. Hilbert adds. “Our choice is to respond to that call. Then we have to trust that God is taking part in our lives, working in us and through us. Personal fulfillment can be found in what God leads us to do.”
S P I R I T U A L I T Y
While at St. Stephen’s Mission, Fr. Hilbert wrote an essay for the National Jesuit News about the meaning of our lives and their connection to the Infinite. Following is an excerpt:
“Only very hesitantly as yet do I affirm myself as valuable, significant. Yet the longing I have for fullness does not want to discard my achievement as meaningless or worthless. I stand before God, small, ragged, inept, holding out a few scraps of ministry product that I’ve worked so hard to make, tempted to hide them in shame for their meagerness and their clumsiness, yet aware that somehow they take their minute spark of being from the wonderful, incomprehensible mystery that is God, and so are not mine to hide but His to take, for from their origin they are blessed by Him.”