May 20, 2019
May has always been a busy and exciting month but this year, it's extra special. Msgr. Smith turns 85 and in just a few days on May 25, he will celebrate 52 years serving the Diocese of El Paso as a priest.
Francis J. Smith was born in Chicago on May 20, 1934. He was the grandchild of Eastern European immigrants who came through Ellis Island and were renamed Smith when no one could pronounce their family name. He attended Catholic schools and ran the streets with his brother, Freddy, who was only 10 months younger. His father was a steelworker and his mother was a strict disciplinarian. His Chicago working class upbringing drove his approach to the priesthood and he has been described as unique, straightforward, and street smart.
Msgr. Smith served at St. Joseph Parish as an associate, at All Saints Parish as pastor as well as at St. Pius X when he was given the title of Monsignor, and finally at St. Raphael Parish where he would serve the school and parish for three decades. In honor of his retirement, an endowed scholarship fund for St. Raphael School was established in his name. The Reverend Monsignor Francis J. Smith Scholarship Fund for St. Raphael Catholic School provides scholarships for young students who could not otherwise afford to attend St. Raphael Catholic School; these students are known as the Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Smith Scholars.
Reverend Monsignor Francis J. Smith was honored as the first recipient of the Foundation's Dei Gratia Award during the 9th Annual Foundation of Faith Dinner on September 17, 2015. Msgr. Smith was ordained on March 25, 1967 and served St. Raphael Parish for 29 years. The crowd laughed when Msgr. Smith quoted another Chicago native, Jack Benny, as he accepted his award with Benny's famous line: "I don't deserve this award, but I have arthritis and I don't deserve that either." On a serious note, he said he always saw God in the people he served.
The Dei Gratia Award, Latin for “By the Grace of God”, recognizes an individual, couple, or organization for their servant leadership, outstanding contribution to the Diocese of El Paso and our Catholic community, and their dedication to being good stewards of God’s grace.
In honor of Msgr. Smith, we're celebrating with an invitation to give to the Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Smith Scholarship Fund for St. Raphael School and the Retired Priest Appreciation Fund in Msgr. Smith's name. Giving is easy and Msgr. Smith will receive a note for each donation received.
Congratulations, Msgr. Smith, and thank you for your vocation!