Brother Theophane (John) Schmitt, CSC (1911-1963)

First Headmaster of St. Patrick’s H.S., Monrovia, Liberia

A tragic accident ended a life of thirty years of outstanding service in Holy Cross.  On the morning of July 9, 1963, Brother Theophane drove from St. Patrick’s High School to the Firestone Plantation Hospital in Monrovia.  On returning, his car was hit by a speeding car that struck him broadside on the driver’s side. A German doctor stopped and administered first aid, and then took him back to the hospital with broken ribs as well as head and face lacerations.  

Upon receiving a telegram, Bishop Carroll and Brother Donald Allen drove to the hospital.  During the next few days, and the week that followed, Theophane seemed greatly improved as he was making plans to return to St. Patrick’s.  During the next week, however, his condition deteriorated, and his health became so alarming that the bishop administered the last rites. He died on July 15 with Brothers Donald and Austin Maley by his bedside. After a Requiem Mass in Monrovia, the body was returned to Notre Dame where he was interred in the community cemetery.

John Schmitt entered the Congregation of Holy Cross as a Brother in 1930.  In 1936, he received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Notre Dame.  He began as a teacher at Sacred Heart Juniorate in Watertown, WI in 1936, and in 1938, he was appointed to be the vocation recruiter.  During the next seven years he demonstrated that he could use his outgoing and dynamic personality and his kindness to aptly describe the life of a brother to numerous young men—many of whom entered the Brothers.

In 1945, Brother Theophane was selected to establish a prep school, Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, OH.  The new school opened in 1946 and, very soon, proved to be a high school with a reputation for high standards with excellent academic and athletic programs.  

Because of his organizational and administrative ability, his name came to the attention of the General Administration in Rome, Italy. Plans were in the making to move the general administration from Rome to New York City while a new Generalate and seminary were being constructed.  Brother Theophane was selected to oversee this massive undertaking in a language he did not speak, and where the attitudes and methods of doing things were very different than in the States.  Nonetheless, the new buildings were ready for occupation in 1954, and Theophane remained in Rome through 1956 as the General Steward and a member of the General Council.  In 1957, he was assigned to Monrovia. (Adapted from the writings of Brother Edward Sniatecki, CSC, January 1984)

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