The Rev. Arthur Schmit, O.S.B., monk and priest of St. Bede Abbey, age 83, died from congestive heart failure and related complications late in the morning of Saturday, March 8, 2014, at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Lacon, where he had been receiving hospice care since mid-January.
Father Arthur was born in Port Washington, Wis., on Sept. 23, 1930, but during his early childhood the family moved to Peoria, where he grew up together with a younger brother and two sisters. His mother, Gertrude Dunst Schmit, had come from Danzig on the Baltic Sea, now Gdansk in Poland, but at that time a German city, whereas his father, Gustave Schmit, had immigrated to the United States from Luxemburg.
His early education was at the grade school of St. Boniface (now St. Ann’s) Parish, and he attended high school at Spalding Institute, then staffed by monks from St. Bede, from which he graduated in 1948. He then came to the junior college seminary at St. Bede, earned the associate degree two years later, and was then accepted for admission to St. Bede Abbey, together with eight other candidates.
During the next year he completed his novitiate at St. Bede, and at its conclusion he made simple profession of vows on July 11, 1951. He then completed his college studies at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn., receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1953.
For the next four years he studied theology in preparation for the priesthood at the St. Bede School of Theology, and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop William Cousins in the Peoria cathedral on June 2, 1957.
After some experience teaching Latin, history and English in the academy at St. Bede, Father Arthur was assigned to graduate studies, first in modern languages at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and then in educational administration at the Catholic University of America, obtaining a master’s degree in each of these areas. He then served as chief executive officer (then called rector) of St. Bede Academy from 1963 to 1970.
His service to the academy as language teacher, both in German as needed and in French for more than 50 years, lasted much longer. His language skills were enhanced by further study at the Universities of Dijon, Salzburg and Strasbourg during the summers of 1971, 1972 and 1980. He finally retired from teaching only in 2011, even though he was confined to a wheel chair for the last decade of his life.
He also served the academy as moderator of the student government from its inception in the 1960s until 2007, in which capacity he presided over many student trips to participate in conventions, to help the poor in Appalachia, and to enjoy skiing in Wisconsin, and over student educational excursions to Europe. He also had a long history as perennial moderator of the Bedan Club, a position that he continued to fill up until his admission to the nursing home in January.
Father Arthur was also the decades-long director of the apiary at St. Bede Abbey, providing honey for the monastic community and for sale. For many years, until his mobility was impaired, he also provided priestly service at the abbey and weekend assistance in parishes. He also served in the1970s on the Peoria diocesan board of conciliation and arbitration.
In addition to the monastic community of St. Bede, Father Arthur is survived by his sister, Mrs. Rosalie Cavanaugh of Monmouth, and her husband, James.
His body will be returned to the St. Bede Abbey Church at 4 p.m. Monday, March 10. The wake service will continue after the reception of the body until 7 p.m. and again on Tuesday, March 11, from 3 to 3:45 p.m. A prayer vigil will be celebrated by the monastic community at 5:15 p.m. Monday, March 10, to which the public is invited.
The Rt. Rev. Philip Davey, O.S.B., abbot of St. Bede, will preside at the funeral Mass at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, with burial to follow in the abbey cemetery. The Fiocchi Funeral Home of Princeton is in charge of funeral arrangements.