Jesuit Father Charles E. Schmitz died on Feb. 18, 2017, at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, California. He was 78 years old. A devoted priest and religious, “Padre Carlos” opened wide his heart to the needs, hopes, dreams, fears, and faith of the Spanish-speaking peoples of the Northwest. From celebrating the sacraments to championing human and legal rights, Fr. Schmitz brought a deep passion and energy to people, places, and institutions in and out of the Church.
Born in Seattle on June 29, 1938, to Charles E. and Florence (Karst) Schmitz, Fr. Schmitz was the oldest of three siblings. He grew up in Salem and attended St. Joseph Grade School and Sacred Heart Academy. He graduated from Seattle University in 1960. Originally set to be commissioned an officer through the ROTC program, he chose a different calling: religious life and the priesthood. Fr. Schmitz entered the Jesuit Novitiate (Sheridan, Oregon) in September 1960 and did the regular course of liberal arts and philosophical studies there and in Spokane.
Ever eager to do greater things, Fr. Schmitz volunteered and was sent to teach (with other Oregon Province Jesuits) in the minor seminary in Zambia, Africa. He returned to the U.S. two years later with great zeal for this work as he began his studies in theology for priesthood. He was ordained a priest on June 17, 1972 in Spokane.
Fr. Schmitz’s work took him to: graduate work at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California; head of the Campus Ministry Department at Seattle University; pastor at St. Leo’s Church (Tacoma, Washington); Central America Liaison for the Jesuit Conference; minister and rector of Gonzaga Prep (Spokane, Washington); superior of St. Luke (Woodburn, Oregon), Socius to the Provincial, superior/coordinator of Ignatian Spirituality at St. Joseph (Yakima, Washington); and pastoral minister to Prince of Peace Church (Belfair, Washington). Prior to entering the Jesuit Tertianship program in Jalisco, Mexico, Fr. Schmitz immersed himself in the Spanish language and became a fluent speaker in a short period of time.
Fr. Schmitz joined the Regis Community in Spokane for assistance in his health care needs in 2013; he joined his brother Jesuits in Los Gatos, California, in mid-January 2017 to receive skilled nursing care at the infirmary there. A sudden turn in his health alerted the nursing and religious staff to his impending death; several of the Jesuits at Sacred Heart Center joined with the superior to anoint Fr. Schmitz. In the early morning hours of February 18, Fr. Schmitz quietly passed away.
Fr. Schmitz was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, John Schmitz. He is survived by his sister, Susan Valentine (Bainbridge Island, Washington), two nieces and two nephews, five grandnieces/nephews, cousins, friends, and his brother Jesuits.