Fr. Robert H. Schmidt, SJ: A Jesuit Contemplative Remembered
By Sr. Benedicta A. Pinto, AC
Ever joyful and happy, loving and lovable, full of life and enthusiasm, humble and hard-working, Fr. Robert "Bob" Schmidt, SJ, was deeply spiritual and human. He was genuinely religious and a perfect blend of deep spirituality and humanness. He was a true Jesuit contemplative who died on September 26, 2017.
I noticed something special in the way he offered Mass. There was unction in his tone, grace on his face, and single-minded attention. In 1982, I took him as my spiritual director for
||Fr. Robert Schmidt, SJ|
I came to know him through his sharing that his father was of German origin and his mother was Irish. He was brought up in strict discipline. He inherited his mental qualities of intelligence, discipline, and capacity for organization from his father and the lovable nature, gentleness, and patient listening from his mother. He had an only brother, who remained a bachelor for health reasons, and the brothers were very close to each other.
For three years he was the confessor of my community. A person of deep faith and prayer, he was friendly, making each sister feel loved and accepted. On a Christmas night, after the midnight Mass, the sacristan sister happened to be still in the sacristy while the rest of us were greeting one another and celebrating in the dining room. Before returning to St. Xavier’s he looked for that sister and greeted her warmly. The sister was deeply touched by this gesture of his.
The quality of his spirituality was revealed when he directed our first retreat in 1984. At the introductory meeting, like a strict novice master, he gave us strict directions. One of the main directions was not to read anything, other than the Scripture, without permission. Truly it went well with me as our Carmelite Patroness St. Teresa of Avila says, “Prayer is not to think much, but to love much.” He laid emphasis on contemplation on the Word of God. It was clear that, being thorough and meticulous about whatever he did, he had prepared himself to direct us in Carmelite spirituality.
The secret of Fr. Bob’s continuous joy, zeal, and kindness lies in this: Conversation with God in prayer leads one to total transformation in God through love. Affability, gratitude, discretion, gentleness, and other social qualities were the fruit of his life of prayer.
Fr. Bob was a person always positive with a "Never say die" attitude. The funeral brochure "The Servant Priest has Returned to the Master," really fit him well.
Sr. Benedicta A. Pinto, AC, is from the Congregation of the sisters of the Apostolic Carmel. She has been a professor of economics for many years in Patna Women’s College. Presently she is the secretary to the provincial of the ACs in Patna.
Fr. Robert H. Schmidt, SJ, was a very friendly and loving person, ever approachable and ready to listen to people’s problems and offer wise counsel. I could share my soul with him without fear of being judged or rejected. He had a very positive attitude towards everyone. I never heard him criticize anyone. Rather, he would make allowances for the shortcomings of others.
|| Fr. Jack Kenealy, SJ
The Jesuits in Patna
The Midwest Jesuits and the Patna Jesuits are engaged in an international partnership stretching back to the formation of the Patna Province in 1919. More than 100 Midwest Jesuits, including Fr. John "Jack" Kenealy (pictured above), have served in the Patna Province over the years. Fr. Kenealy, who died in 2017, entered the Society of Jesus in 1945, was ordained a priest in 1958, and served in the Patna Province for most of his life.
Bob was a very good organizer and planner. When we were in the Regional Theology Centre in Danapur, Bob used to plan for future staff. He would draw up a list of the members of the staff who could be replaced by new members. During the time I was socius to the provincial, we used to ask Bob to facilitate personnel planning to be conducted by the provincial team. Here too, Bob would make use of his vast knowledge of the province, its personnel, and apostolic needs. He would place people in various age categories and also make a list of the people needed for our various ministries.
Bob was adept at facilitating meetings. During province level meetings such as province congregations and meetings of superiors, coordinators, and directors of works, Bob was often asked to chair those sessions which were expected to be stormy. At such sessions, Bob always kept his cool and could handle questions and interventions to the satisfaction of all. He was also good at picking up the highlights of the meetings and summarizing them without leaving out any important points.
During his prolonged illness with Parkinson’s disease at XTTI, Bob never complained of his pain and suffering but put up with it with a cheerful countenance. Toward the end of his days, he could greet people, but could not answer their questions except with unintelligible words.
Above all, Bob was a deeply spiritual person. He used to be in the community chapel before everyone else. He would arrange the altar for Mass and then would be lost in personal prayer. His homilies were very well appreciated. He scrupulously kept up his habit of saying the daily Office and reciting the Rosary. He was an inspiration for the rest of us.
Fr. Joseph Vellaringatt, SJ, was a theology professor at the regional theology centre at Danapur and later the socius to the provincial. Presently he is the director of Atmadarshan renewal centre in Patna.
|Fr. Jerome Durack, SJ||
He would start his day at 4:30 a.m. by celebrating the Holy Eucharist and offering his daily prayers. The rest of his time he spent in maintaining the accounts of the Sanjivan Jesuit Community; teaching catechism; offering spiritual guidance to religious, laity, and youth; and visiting the families of Christians in the evenings. Along with these daily activities, he wrote, translated, and edited Christian literature and prayers entrusted to him by Prabhat Prakashan, the publishing house, or by the Archbishop, or by others.
He spent Sundays doing what had been central to his pastoral work - visiting Christian families, sharing their joys and sorrows. He ate with them, rested in their homes, brought Holy Communion to the elders, and prayed with them.
To us Jesuits, Fr. Jerry was a model of missionary zeal, Jesuit charism of knowing, loving, and following the Son Jesus carrying the cross with complete fidelity, availability, and obedience to the will of God. The Holy Bible, the Spiritual Exercises, and the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (all in Latin), were his prized possessions. He read them again and again. They had become his life. He read them repeatedly. May he intercede for us to be true companions of Jesus!
Fr. Anto Joseph, SJ, is the coordinator of the social action ministry in the province. He is presently the director of Bihar Dalit Vikas Samiti and the superior of the Sanjeevan Niwas community where Fr. Durack resided until few days before his death.