Fr. LeRoy Smet, 86, dies

Senior priest’s favorite time of week was when he celebrated Mass

UPDATE:  Fr. LeRoy Smet, who died on May 15, was ordained on May 23, 1959, not 1956, as noted in the May 24 Compass story below. He also attended the Salvatorian Seminary in St. Nazianz, not St. Gregory.

ALLOUEZ — Fr. LeRoy Smet, remembered as a quiet man who truly enjoyed the liturgy of the Mass, died on May 15. He was 86.

Born on Jan. 17, 1933, to Robert Henry and Henrietta Louise (Ver Boort) Smet in De Pere, he attended St. Norbert High School and St. Gregory High School, Saint Nazianz. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology at St. Francis de Sales Seminary, St. Francis, Wis.

Fr. Leroy Smet

In his younger days, Fr. Smet helped his father with building homes and they even built a 45-foot yacht.

On May 23, 1956, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay.

Fr. Smet served as parochial vicar at St. Jude Parish, Green Bay, and then at St. John Nepomucene Parish, Little Chute. In 1969, he was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Manawa, and, in 1974, was also appointed pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish, New London. He served both parishes until 1979. Fr. Smet then served as pastor of St. Joseph Church, Phlox — where he oversaw the building of its 1980 church — and Holy Family Parish, Mattoon. He was appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish, Winneconne, in 1988, and retired from there in 2007.

While in Winneconne, Fr. Smet told The Compass in 2007, he enjoyed visiting the sick and terminally ill in their homes and at Omro Care Center, as well serving as a part-time chaplain at Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh.

He said he focused on “trying to protect the rights of people who are not treated with the respect that they should.”

He also said that “Saturday afternoon, Sunday mornings were my favorite time of the week,” because that was when he celebrated Mass for the parish.

In active ministry and in retirement, he enjoyed downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting and Door County.

His ordination classmate, Fr. Bob Rhyner, who was homilist at Fr. Smet’s memorial Mass called Fr. Smet “an outdoorsman (who) loved hunting, including bow hunting.” He recounted how Fr. Smet had recorded “the first official turkey bagged in Outagamie County, at 7 .a.m. on hunting day.”

“He loved everyone and was concerned for them,” Fr. Rhyner added.

When Fr. Smet retired from St. Mary in Winneconne, he was succeeded by Franciscan Sr. Pam Biehl, who is now pastoral leader at both Winneconne and at St. Mary, Omro.

She said that Fr. Smet stayed on for three months at Winneconne to serve as sacramental minister at the parish while his retirement cabin was being finished.

“I always found Fr. Smet to be kind and gracious as we made the transition from him as pastor to my ministry as Parish Director,” Sr. Biehl said. “He would answer any questions I had if I called him.”

In addition to his pastoral ministry, Fr. Smet served for two years as an episcopal vicar for Vicariate IV and also as a diocesan consultor in 1972. In 2007, he said that in ministry, he realized that “controversy is part of life, but if we have a listening attitude and an open attitude to one another, so many of these controversies can melt into the background.”

Fr. Smet is survived by his siblings; Daniel (Karen) Smet, Dorothy (Tom) Scott, Steven (Lynne) Smet; his sister-in-law, Dar Smet; numerous nieces and nephews and many friends.
In accord with Fr. Smet’s wishes, a memorial Mass, with Bishop David Ricken as the main celebrant was held at St. Joseph Chapel on the campus of the Diocese of Green Bay on May 20. Bishop Emeritus Robert Banks and 21 priests were concelebrants.