A funeral Mass for Brother Robert Hanss was celebrated July 19 at Assumption Chapel at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. Brother Hanss died July 10 at the age of 88. He was a vowed member of the Society of Mary (Marianists) for 66 years.
He was born in St. Louis on Aug. 17, 1933, the son of Joseph E. Hanss and Margaret Mary (McNamara) Hanss. He got to know the Marianists at McBride High School in St. Louis, and later at DeAndreis High School in St. Louis. He recalled how the brothers helped him develop an affection for mathematics and science, his favorite subjects, and how they broadened his interests to include the school paper and playing on the basketball and baseball teams as a second-stringer.
He studied at Rolla School of Mines (now Missouri S&T University) in Rolla, Missouri, earning a bachelor’s degree in mining and geology in 1954, prior to entering the Marianist novitiate.
Brother Hanss made his first vows on Sept. 8, 1955, in Galesville, Wisconsin, and pronounced his perpetual vows in St. Louis on July 19, 1959. He began his teaching career at Marianist high schools in San Antonio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before entering graduate studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned a doctorate in geophysics in 1965. He then served a 20-year stint on the faculty at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, where he served for a time as chair of the Geology Department.
Brother Hanss went on in later years to do post-doctoral studies at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. At one point, he was called upon by NASA to analyze rock samples brought back from the moon by Apollo astronauts.
Brother Hanss was a beloved teacher, professor, geologist, missionary, novice master and community director. While devoting much of his life to the classroom, he felt particularly blessed by the years he spent in parish ministry — work that brought him in close touch with the poor and gave him a new “way to know Jesus.”
By the early 1980s, Brother Hanss discerned that he was being called to a ministry outside the classroom, and in 1985 moved to Mexico. He lived there for the next 25 years, discovering in a variety of roles that his “sense of collaboration in the mission of Mary at the foot of the cross has become more real for me,” as he wrote on the occasion of his 50th jubilee.
Then due to Alzheimer’s, he carried a heavy cross of diminishing health, bearing it with peaceful acceptance for many years.
Brother Hanss is survived by his sister, Elaine. Burial was in the Marianist Cemetery in San Antonio.