Remembering Francis Smith, S.J.
Father Francis Smith, S.J., a retired Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, passed away at the age of 86 at the infirmary at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos on March 25, 2021. Fr. Smith was a San Francisco native and was an undergraduate at Santa Clara University. He earned a B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in History (1956) and followed with an M.A. in Philosophy from Gonzaga University ten years later. By then a member of the Jesuit community, Smith next went to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, where he was awarded the S.T.M. from the Jesuit School of Theology (1972), and from there to Rome, where he received an S.T.D. in Fundamental Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1977.
Fr. Smith began teaching at Santa Clara University in 1974. His interests included Christology, ecclesiology, and liberation theology, and he offered a range of courses on these subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. He was particularly dedicated to the department’s Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries, and primarily taught courses for this program for the past decade, until his retirement from teaching in 2020.
Fr. Smith was an active scholar. He was the author of two books, The God Question: A Catholic Approach (Paulist Press, 1988) and The World is Charged: The Transcendent With Us (Crossroads/Herder and Herder, 2004) as well as several chapters in edited volumes. He also accumulated a large store of wisdom over his many decades at Santa Clara University, which he generously shared with his colleagues, and in particular the many department chairs who served over the past four decades. He was an active and beloved presence in the department. He will be missed by everyone in the department who had the good fortune to be able to get to know him.
Not only a matter of belief, religion also is a primary mode for creating a sense of belonging and influences the entire scope of human societies, including ethical and political systems. Religious Studies engages the stuff of life and culture: faith and history, theology and ethics, texts and ritual, science and technology, art and literature, race, ethnicity and gender. We study Christianity and Catholicism, but also Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions, including atheism, both local and global. In the Religious Studies Department, our teaching and research are suffused with a deep commitment to social justice and care for the earth itself. The study of religion intersects with virtually every other approach to understanding the world and ourselves.
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