Father Joseph A. Pitts, OMI
Oblate Father Joseph A. Pitts, 82, died in Belleville, Ill., on Dec. 20, 2016. The only child of his parents, he was born on Feb. 22, 1934, in Chicago to Joseph and Veronica (Szymarek) Pitts, who preceded him in death. He is survived by cousins and friends.
Father Pitts’ Oblate education was at the Our Lady of the Ozarks Juniorate in Carthage, Mo.; Immaculate Heart of Mary Novitiate, Godfrey, Ill.; and Our Lady of the Snows Scholasticate, Pass Christian, Mass. He received further education in counseling and spirituality at Loyola University, DePaul University and St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill. He professed first vows as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate in 1954 and was ordained a priest on Sept. 13, 1959.
Father Pitts’ ministry included teaching assignments at St. Thomas College in St. Paul and St. Benedict’s High School in Chicago. He served at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in International Falls from 1961 to 1964 as an assistant pastor and also in Richfield. He served on the Oblate vocation and formation staff at St. Henry’s in Belleville and in Omaha, Neb., as well as at the Oblate House of Theology in Chicago. He coordinated youth retreats at LaSalle Manor Retreat Center in Plano, Ill., and was campus minster at St. Scholastica High School in Chicago, St. Mary’s College in Winona and Harper/Northeastern University in Chicago. His latest assignments were the ministry team at King’s House and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville before retiring there at the Apartment Community, where he resided at the time of his death.
Father Pitts was a great lover of anything equine, following this tradition in his father’s footsteps. He was very talented in acting and theater from his earliest days in the Oblates. A registered clown, he used theatrical and mime skills to bring the messages of the scriptures to life in creative prayer for youth, campus ministry and vocations. In his ministry he was known for his careful listening, thoughtful preaching and creative spontaneity. Many will remember Father Pitts for his innate ability to connect deeply with individuals or groups.
Funeral services were held at the Chapel of the Apartment Community at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. Oblate Father Jim Brobst officiated the funeral Mass. Burial was at St. Henry’s Oblate Cemetery, Belleville. Memorials may be made to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.