Funeral Mass held for former St. Elizabeth pastor Fr. Steve Smith

By Dan McWilliams

Dominican Father Steve Smith, who served as pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Elizabethton from 1989 to 2000, died April 4 in New Orleans. He was 86.

Steve Kieran Smith was born in New York City on May 7, 1931. He entered the Dominican novitiate for the Province of St. Joseph in August 1952 in Dover, Mass. He professed first vows at St. Stephen Priory in Dover on Aug. 26, 1952. On June 5, 1958, he was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop and future Cardinal Amleto Giovanni Cicognani in Washington, D.C.

Father Smith held several degrees, including his J.C.D., earned in 1962; theology, 1959; and philosophy, 1955.

The first assignment Father Smith had was as a peritus at the Second Vatican Council from 1962-63. Journeying to Pakistan from 1963-1982, Father Smith was first the secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature. Then he was the pastor at Our Lady of Fatima, volunteer director and then director for Catholic Relief Services, and co-founder of Inter-Aid Karachi.

In 1982, Father Smith was assigned as associate pastor and prior at St. Anthony of Padua in New Orleans. Following New Orleans, he was associate pastor at Holy Cross Parish in Atlanta for four years, before he came to Elizabethton.

In 1998 in Elizabethton, Father Smith celebrated 40 years in the priesthood. In an interview with The East Tennessee Catholic, he recalled his time at Vatican II.

“The spirit was moving. You wouldn’t believe it could be pulled together so wonderfully,” he said. “In our modern age, we had never seen such a gathering in the Church. The Church had been expanding, with many of the missionary bishops from Africa and Asia present. I was struck by the variety, the universality, the colorfulness.”

He also looked back on his time in Pakistan, where it was difficult to gain converts in the Muslim nation.

“For them to be converted to Christianity, if it became known, it’s as if someone had died in the family and funeral services were held,” Father Smith said. “They are cut off. It’s a major decision. You don’t make that decision lightly, and you don’t recommend it unless you know someone has the stamina, the guts, and the wherewithal to make it.”

Father Smith left Elizabethton for an assignment in Raleigh, N.C., where he served as Defender of the Bond and an itinerant preacher until 2012. For the next year, he ministered in Memphis.

Father Smith will be missed by many of the parishes and people he blessed, and all of the Pakistani families he sponsored to the United States during his tenure in Pakistan.

In 2013, Father Smith came to live at Our Lady of Wisdom Health Care Center in New Orleans, where he would remain until his death.

Father Smith is preceded in death by his parents, Bridget Brady Smith and Peter Smith, and three brothers, Peter, Andrew, and Thomas. He has two sisters-in-law, Attracta E. Rodgers and Louise Adair Smith, currently living in New York. He also is survived by 10 nieces and three nephews. He presided over many of their weddings and at the baptisms of their children.

The funeral Mass was held Friday, April 13, in the Our Lady of Wisdom chapel in New Orleans. Interment was in Rosaryville Cemetery. To view and sign the family guestbook, visit www.schoenfh.com.

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