Faith Seeking Understanding: Fr. Dale Schlitt, OMI

Father Dale Schlitt, OMI, recently wrote a book that is 500 pages long. It wasn’t his autobiography, that would have required more pages.

For more than 50 years as a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Fr. Dale has been a much admired and honored theologian and educator. He has run two of the preeminent theology schools in North America. And today, at the age of 81, he writes books on theological issues that are read around the world.

Despite reaching such lofty academic achievements, Fr. Dale’s Oblate journey has always been grounded in humility. He is first and foremost a missionary, someone who enlightens the mind and spirit.

Father Dale’s Oblate journey began in the eighth grade when a vocation program was presented at his school. He decided to turn in a postcard asking for more information about the Missionary Oblates.

“The missionary aspect is what really appealed to me when I was a boy,” said Fr. Dale. “The Oblates also impressed me with how they gave their whole life to living the Gospel.”

His boyhood faith brought Fr. Dale to the Oblates. His intellectual gifts would help him, over many years, shed light on some of the deepest mysteries of the Catholic faith.

Born in St. Louis, Fr. Dale entered the Oblates’ minor seminary in Carthage, Missouri, at the age of 14. He became a professed Oblate in 1963 and was ordained in 1969 after spending three years studying in Rome.

His first assignment was as an associate pastor in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and then he spent three years working in parishes in Denmark.

“People always loved coming to me for confession,” said Fr. Dale. “I didn’t speak the language very well, so I wasn’t always sure what their sins were.”

When he returned to the United States, Fr. Dale ministered as a scholasticate formator and as a campus minister at the University of Illinois, Champaign. From 1983 to 2012, Fr. Dale was an important part of the academic life at the Oblates’ Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. Besides teaching and research, he served as the Rector of the school for 15 years.

During his time as Rector many improvements took place at the university, including the creation of new programs designed to meet the needs of today’s society, such as conflict resolution, ethics, interreligious dialogue, leadership, and doctoral formation in ministry.

In 2012, Fr Dale experienced the ultimate climate change. He left Ottawa, where temperatures could dip to 40 below, to serve as the Acting President of Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, where it wasn’t uncommon for the temperature to reach 106. After six months as Acting President, Fr. Dale was a professor at the school for five years.

In 2016 Fr. Dale joined the Oblate St. Henry’s Residence in Belleville, Illinois, just a short drive from his boyhood home in St. Louis. The slower pace at St Henry’s allowed Fr. Dale to concentrate on his love of writing.

Father Dale has now authored eight books. Several have been focused on the Trinity. His latest book, Testimonials to Experience of the Trinity, took seven years to write. In his study of the spirituality of the Trinity, Fr. Dale presents 15 testimonials to experience the Trinity as a discipleship spirituality rooted in Jesus’ experience of God.

While the book won’t make any best-seller lists or Oprah’s Book Club, it has become a valuable tool for people who are doing research into areas such spirituality, theology, and philosophy of religion. The book is distributed globally by Amazon.

Father Dale explains that theology usually develops over time, sometimes taking centuries. When he was an Oblate seminarian, he studied the work of the eleventh century theologian, St. Anselm who had a famous three-word definition of theology: “Faith seeking understanding.”

It’s a definition that can summarize Fr. Dale’s life as well.

Information provided from OMI USA, the newsletter of the U.S. Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate