Father Charles “Chuck” E. Schmitz, SJ, entered into God’s peace February 18 at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, Calif. 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, Charles Emmitt 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, Ore.) 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.Ordained a priest on June 17, 1972 in Spokane, Fr. Schmitz undertook graduate studies with hopes of returning to Zambia. Unfortunately, his offer to help seminarians in their educational goals was refused. Though it hurt him inwardly, Fr. Schmitz was able to regroup and soon other doors of ministry were opened to him.
Fr. Schmitz’s work took him to: graduate work at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.; head of the Campus Ministry Department at Seattle University; pastor at St. Leo’s Church (Tacoma); Central America Liaison for the Jesuit Conference; minister and rector of Gonzaga Prep (Spokane); superior of St. Luke (Woodburn, Ore.), Socius to the Provincial, superior/coordinator of Ignatian Spirituality at St. Joseph (Yakima); and pastoral minister to Prince of Peace Church (Belfair, Wash). 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. A great joy of his was to lead Spanish speakers through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius or other forms of prayer.
One of the crosses Fr. Schmitz bore with great dignity and patience was the decline in his physical health in recent years. Accustomed to vigorous work, exercise, and play, he found himself in his later years significantly limited in energy and endurance. Walking the length of the building could easily tire him or bring much pain. Yet this did not detract from his love for watching and rooting loudly for the local sports teams (in person or on television).
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, Calif., 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. Chuck 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, Wash.), two nieces and two nephews, five grandnieces/nephews, cousins, friends, and his brother Jesuits.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated March 4, 11:00 a.m., at the Jesuit House Chapel, Gonzaga University. Inurnment will follow at Mt. St. Michael Cemetery in Spokane. Donations in honor of Fr. Schmitz may be sent to the Senior Fund, Oregon Province, Society of Jesus, P.O. Box 86010, Portland, OR 97286. Gifts may also be made at www.jesuitswest.org/OREdonations on our secure donation site.