Father Robert Hackel, SM, died March 20 in Cupertino, California. He was 89 and had been a professed Marianist for 70 years.
Robert Edward Hackel was born on April 24, 1932, in St. Louis to Edward and Ann (Roedman) Hackel. He attended St. Mary Magdalen School, McBride High School and St. Mary’s High School, where he was first introduced to the Marianist brothers. After graduating from St. Mary’s in 1950, he entered the novitiate that August at Marynook in Galesville, Wisconsin, and professed first vows there in 1951.
Known as “Brother Bob,” he began his scholasticate studies at Maryhurst in Kirkwood before moving on to St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history there in 1954.
For the next several years, Brother Bob served as a classroom teacher, first at St. Joseph’s School in Victoria, Texas, and then at Chaminade College Preparatory and St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis. He professed perpetual vows on July 14, 1956, at Marynook. Called to the priesthood, Brother Bob began seminary studies at Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1960. He was ordained on April 3, 1965.
Over the next four decades, Father Bob worked primarily in high school assignments, including teaching and chaplaincy positions at St. Mary’s High School and St. John Vianney High School in St. Louis; Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, Texas; Thomas More High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Gross Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska; Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas; and St. Louis School in Honolulu, Hawaii. He taught Latin, religion, history and social studies at various points in his career as an educator, and typically assisted nearby parishes by offering sacramental ministries on weekends. Father Bob also spent several years in parish work, both at Our Lady of the Pillar in St. Louis and as a missionary in eastern Africa.
Father Bob earned a master’s degree in political science in 1975 from Marquette University. Known among the brothers for an intense interest in politics, Father Bob was pleased that his many years of writing to Harry Truman eventually led to him receiving personal replies from the former president. Father Bob is also remembered for his interest in small-scale farming, raising plants, flowers, geese and ducks; he occasionally worked these subjects into his homilies. His personal correspondence would often include a drawing of a rooster as his signature image.
On the occasion of his 70th jubilee, Father Bob wrote of his own deep appreciation for the Society of Mary. “Requests for me to assist in some of its ministries have always been a great grace,” he said. “As a priest, the sacrament of reconciliation has been a sign of the Father’s love in bringing Christ to all of us. The joy and challenges of community life have been a means of growth and maturity and have given me skills to communicate better and show fraternal appreciation.”