Jesuit Father Herbert F. Smith was born in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 31, 1922, the fifth of nine children in the family.
He was baptized at St. Michael’s Church in Buffalo on Feb. 4, 1923. He had wide-ranging experience as a factory worker, technician, electronic service engineer and radio and TV instructor from 1945-1949 prior to his studies at Canisius College in Buffalo and the St. Philip Neri School for Delayed Vocations in Haverhill, Massachusetts, from 1949-1951. He entered the Society of Jesus on July 30, 1951, to make his first ascetical and literary studies from 1951 to 1955 at St. Isaac Jogues Novitiate in Wernersville, Pennsylvania.
On completion of his B.A. program (1957) and his philosophy studies in 1958 at Loyola Seminary, a division of Fordham University at Shrub Oak, New York, he was assigned to teach English, geometry and religion at Loyola High School, Towson, Maryland, from 1958 until 1959. Fr. Smith was then sent for theological studies to Woodstock College Maryland where he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood by Baltimore Archbishop Lawrence J. Shehan on June 17, 1962. Fordham University gave Fr. Smith an M.A. degree in 1961, and Woodstock a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1963. He completed his studies in spirituality and ascetical theology at the Jesuit House in Auriesville, New York, in 1963-64. Fr. Smith made solemn profession in the Society of Jesus on Aug. 15, 1977.
Fr. Smith’s first priestly appointment was to the Provincial’s Office, Baltimore, in 1964 as acting secretary to the provincial and assistant director of the Sacred Heart Retreat House. That work was followed by a remarkable 40-year apostolate (1965-2005) as a member of the Maryland Province Mission Band, giving retreats, novenas, parish missions and spiritual direction to priests and lay people alike. Save for a year spent in Sedonia, Arizona for health reasons, Fr. Smith worked out of Philadelphia, first from Willings Alley, and then from the Jesuit Community at St. Joseph’s University (1966-2005). He was director of the Apostolate of Prayer for the Maryland Province from 1988-1998, and for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia until 2004.
A prolific author, Fr. Smith may best be remembered for ‘Hidden Victory,’ his historical novel about the life of Jesus. First published in 1984, the book has been translated into several languages, and has had an audio-tape edition produced. His other publications include books on contemplative prayer, numerous magazine articles, and several homily collections for Sunday liturgies, with many that center on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and The Apostolate of Prayer.
Declining health eventually ended his active, though not his prayerful apostolate in 2005. He continued his prayers for the Church, his brother Jesuits and all those who sought his help, until he died on Dec. 10, 2015 at Manresa Hall in Philadelphia, just shy of his 93rd birthday.