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In Memoriam

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Albert J. Fritsch, SJ, who died on March 5, 2024 at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 90 years old. May he rest in peace.

Al is survived by his siblings: Charles Fritsch, Edward Fritsch, Frank Fritsch, and Mary Patricia Hoover. He is preceded in death by his sister, Dorothy Harmeyer.

Al was born on September 30, 1933 in Washington, Kentucky. Before entering the Society, he earned a bachelor’s degree (1955) and a master’s degree (1956) in chemistry from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He entered the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus on September 1, 1956 at the Jesuit novitiate in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained a priest on June 8, 1967 at Bellarmine School of Theology in North Aurora, Illinois, and pronounced final vows on August 15, 1973 at Xavier University.

While in the Society, Al earned a doctorate in organic chemistry from Fordham University in Bronx, New York (1964). In 1968 he earned a licentiate degree in Sacred Theology (1968) from Bellarmine School of Theology in North Aurora, Illinois.

During the years that his Jesuit cohorts were missioned to regency, Al was in doctoral studies at Fordham University. After theology studies and ordination, Al was a research associate at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas (1969-1970) before being missioned to Washington, D.C., where he worked with Ralph Nader as a chemistry consultant at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law (1970-1971). Al then became the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (1971-1977).

In 1977, Al was missioned to Kentucky where he took his knowledge and understanding from working with the Center for Science in the Public Interest and founded Appalachia Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit resource center advocating for sustainable development, responsible resource management, and informed personal choices. Al was the executive director of Appalachia Science in the Public Interest for twenty-five years (1977-2002). In 2002, Al was missioned to sacramental and pastoral ministry in Kentucky at: Good Shepherd Parish in Frankfort (2003-2004), Our Lady of the Mountains Parish in Stanton (2004-2008), and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Ravenna where he was pastor (2008-2023). While doing pastoral ministry, Al continued researching and writing about environmental issues and sustainability. He began the website in 2004 and posted [often] daily reflections and videos about living sustainable lives and caring for the earth. Al was missioned to Colombiere Center in 2023 to care for his health and to pray for the Church and the Society.

Al was a devoted priest, a conscientious scientist, and a prolific writer. Al’s love and care for the earth and environmental advocacy started early in his life and long before Universal Apostolic Preference #4 existed as can be seen in the title of his first book (which was published in 1972): A Theology of the Earth – The Contrasumers: A Citizens Guide to Resource Conservation. His integration of science, research, scholarship, writing, and serving as a voice for those without such a voice was incredibly well-integrated. His passionate search for justice on behalf of those who were marginalized or ignored by corporations who demonstrated little or no concern for people impacted by their negligence was fearless, remarkable, and grounded in the Catholic social ethics of the Roman Catholic Church.  

In addition to his care for the earth, Al was a real man of prayer, had a devotion to the sainthood cause of Père Jacques Marquette, and served his parishioners with deep devotion. [In spite of living alone for a good portion of his life,] Al was a fine community man who delighted in sharing sacraments, meals, and conversations with his brother Jesuits. He also was never afraid to stir the pot if he felt such was necessary to speak the truth – but always done respectfully. 

He was a true son of the commonwealth of Kentucky and was grounded in and relied on the simple but profoundly deep faith of his parents and siblings. His writings, poetry, podcasts, and everyday conversations were a rich source of intellectual and pastoral engagement for parts of the Church that were often considered on the periphery.

Parishioners remember how “Fr. Al” fostered a welcoming and accepting parish community. They fondly remember helping him to plant fruit trees and install solar panels on the parish property. He was always available to those in need and was instrumental in strengthening the faith and environmental consciousnessof the parish community. Finally, Fr. Al’s entire life was about service to others and making the world a better place, whether it was through his sermons, his publications, his environmental work, his website, and his Facebook page.

When asked in a 2020 interview about his time in Washington, Al stated:

At that time, we thought the environmental problems would be solved quickly. The first issues we worked on — lead in gasoline, tobacco, asbestos — actually were addressed pretty quickly. There was ample bipartisan interest in doing something, and several issues were cleared up with some government regulation. I actually thought I’d be moving on to something else. As we progressed, however, we recognized bigger underlying issues. We came to the conclusion that consumer addiction was a problem that was not going to be solved quickly. We couldn’t even contemplate the future ravages of climate change at that time!

Fr. Walter Bado, SJ, has these thoughts about Al:

Al deserves a choir of angels singing St. Francis’ Canticle of the sun for all he did to cherish and nourish Mother Earth and her divine milieu. In addition to his researching, writing, and podcasting in connection with “Appalachia: Science in the Public Interest”, Al served as pastor in the newly created missionary diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. First, at Good Shepherd parish in Frankfort — with the condition (agreed to by the then head of the diocese, Bishop Ronald Gainer) that he wouldn’t have to attend all the parish meetings! Al then served for almost two decades as pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, an outlying parish in rural Kentucky. There he continued to maintain his simple life style, living off the produce of his model fruit-and-vegetable garden adjoining the parish rectory. But in his homilies, he continued to give God’s people the message of just stewardship of God’s bounty. May Al rejoice in the heavenly singing.