He was brilliant, a prolific scholar and highly respected colleague. He was passionately committed to his academic work and his ministry—his work was unparalleled, his collaboration essential.
And all of that was just in the introductory remarks.
The death of Fr. Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S., in June 2021 left a void at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago, where his friends and colleagues, along with people from Precious Blood congregations, gathered on January 23 for a memorial Mass and presentations about Fr. Schreiter’s life and ministry.
Sr. Barbara Reid, OP, president of CTU, gave the opening remarks. Fr. Schreiter came to CTU in 1974, just six years after it was incorporated, and spent the following decades helping to build the institution, guide its students and advance its mission.
He served as vice president and academic dean for nine years. “I turned to him often for counsel when I became dean,” Sr. Barbara said.
Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., presided at the Mass. Fr. Stephan Bevans, SVD, a CTU professor emeritus, was the homilist. “With Bob’s towering intellect, he always stood a bit higher than most of us, if not all of us,” Fr. Bevans said. “His intellect was legendary, even mythical. His learning was encyclopedic. In fact, in his one-room elementary school in Nebraska, he read and probably pretty much memorized the World Book Encyclopedia as a boy of 10 or 11. . .
“His knowledge of theology was awesome. There were few theologians in history or today that he had not read, or, in the case of the latter, to whom he was not a trusted friend. Though he was so gifted intellectually, he never looked down on us from that higher position.”
The second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about all Christians being part of the body of Christ with their own gifts and responsibilities, was perfect for Fr. Schreiter, Fr. Bevans said.
“We are thankful for the giant Bob was and continues to be in our lives. We’re thankful for the person who, though higher than us all, was still part of the body of Christ. Thankful for the friend, colleague and brother who shaped our context in so many powerful ways, and who challenges us still to be people committed to the Good News that in Christ, reconciliation is still possible in God’s name.”
Fr. Schreiter was a mentor to Dr. Susan Abraham, who offered reflections at the close of Mass. “Bob was like a father to me. When I arrived at CTU from India, my father had just died and I transferred all my daughterly feelings to him,” she said.
New in the U.S., she did not understand the cultural context of what she was being taught. So Fr. Schreiter gave her an assignment out of his own life: read the encyclopedia.
“It was 1991, there was no internet. His exhortation to me was to go read, so I did. He did one of the most difficult things for a teacher to do, which is to say to a student, ‘You go learn.’”