Died 19 May 2014
Jesuit Father J. Robert Hilbert died on May 19, 2014, at St. Camillus, in Wauwatosa, Wis. He was 88 years old, a Jesuit for 70 years, and a priest for 57 years.
Born in Omaha, Neb., on March 25, 1926, Fr. Hilbert attended Holy Name Grade School and Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, before entering the Society at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, Mo., on Aug. 8, 1943. Fr. Hilbert had the usual Jesuit course of studies at St. Stanislaus, Saint Louis University and St. Mary's College. He was ordained on June 18, 1956. After tertianship in Decatur, Ill., Fr. Hilbert earned a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas. He pronounced his final vows on Aug. 15, 1959.
Fr. Hilbert did regency at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo. After graduate studies, he taught math at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, and, from 1966 to 1973, served as rector of Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wis. Apart from a few years as Director of the Emmaus Center in Des Moines, Iowa, and as Provincial Assistant for Pastoral and Retreat Ministries, the rest of Fr. Hilbert’s years of active ministry were devoted to service of the Native Americans. For almost 30 years he ministered to the people of the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota (1973-1982) and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming (1987-1995 and 1998-2010). For a number of years, Fr. Hilbert also served as a member of the Wisconsin Province tertianship team. Declining health led to his move in 2010 to St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, where he remained until his death.
A gentle, quiet man, Fr. Hilbert was passionately devoted to the service of the poor. He was an intelligent, well-read, thoughtful critic of American cultural trends who had a gift for seeing things from the viewpoint of the culturally marginalized.