Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Br. Robert E. Smith, SJ, who died on November 24, 2020 at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 92 years old. May he rest in peace.
Bob had seven brothers and one sister. Sister Marie Smith, SSND, is his only living sibling.
Bob was born in Madelia, Minnesota on August 20, 1928. He grew up on a farm and attended grade school in Madelia. After graduating from eighth grade, Bob turned his attention to farming. Later in life, he had some training servicing heavy equipment and, in the early 1950s, served for two years in Germany in the US Army Corps of Engineering. These jobs helped prepare Bob—a quiet, hard-working man—for ministry in the Society of Jesus.
Bob married in 1955, but he lost his wife to a rare disease after two years. He entered the Society as a brother on July 30, 1965, at the age of 36. Bob did postulancy and novitiate at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri, and Jesuit College, St. Bonifacius in Minnesota. He made tertianship in Wheeling, West Virginia, and pronounced final vows in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1979.
Most of Bob’s Jesuit life was spent doing maintenance work of various sorts. He worked for seven years (1970-1977) at Holy Rosary Mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. In 1977, Bob was missioned to Creighton University and, in the early 1980s, became the director of buildings and grounds at SCOLA until he was missioned to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in April 2017 to care for his health.
SCOLA is a non-profit educational organization that currently receives and re-transmits television programming from more than 140 countries in more than 170 native languages. SCOLA was founded in 1981 when Fr. Lee Lubbers, SJ, started a foreign language cable television system on Creighton University’s campus. In 1984, the name was changed to SCOLA and the programming expanded into satellite technology. In 1993 SCOLA outgrew its location and moved across state lines to the town of McClelland in rural Iowa.
Bob was a quiet, steady man who liked to work with his hands—a good Jesuit and a good community member. Many Jesuits turned to him because he was mechanically inclined, ready to help, and generous with his time. While at Creighton, his devotion to Jesus and the Eucharist prompted him to serve Mass every morning. He was known as a kind and gentle man who accepted his diagnosis of bladder cancer and lived peacefully with it until his death. Bob’s lifestyle was simple. He had few clothes. He kept in his bookcase a Bible and two scrapbooks filled with photos of family and friends.
Bob was cremated and, when the St. Camillus Jesuit Community can gather together as one, there will be a funeral Mass.