A funeral Mass was to have been celebrated for Jesuit Father Robert T. Costello on March 2 at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church. Father Costello, 87, died Feb. 21 in St. Louis after a brief illness. A Jesuit for 65 years and a priest for 53 years, he was a former president of St. Louis University, head of the Missouri Province of Jesuits and chaplain at De Smet Jesuit High School.
Born in St. Louis, he graduated from St. Louis University High School in 1947, then earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from St. Louis University. He entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant in 1951.
He studied philosophy at St. Louis University and theology at St. Mary's College in St. Marys, Kan. He was ordained a priest in 1963 at St. Mary's College and pronounced final vows in 1972 at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo. In 1971, he received a doctorate in counseling from the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
Father Costello spent nearly 20 years teaching psychology at Rockhurst University (1965-83). During his time there, he spent a sabbatical year (1975-76) working as a staff psychologist in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan., and another year (1981-82) doing research in the Sam Houston State University Center for Corrections at Huntsville, Texas. While at Rockhurst, he began working with the federal prison system and developed a special interest in how the Christian community could be part of the process of reconciling ex-offenders with society. From this sprang the "Seventy Times Seven" program focused on changing attitudes toward people who had been incarcerated
In 1983, he returned to St. Louis where he oversaw a house of studies for two years before becoming provincial of the Missouri Province (1985-1991). From 1992-97, he led St. Louis University High School as president. He worked for three years in Toronto as a staff member at Southdown Institute, which provides help for vowed religious and clergy related to addictions and mental health. He then served for three years at Loyola House-Guelph Centre of Spirituality a retreat house and Ignatian Spirituality training center in Guelph, Ontario.
Since 2000, he worked with the Christian Life Community (CLC) in various capacities in Birmingham, England, and then in St. Louis as regional ecclesial assistant (2005-2015); from 2009-2011 he was national ecclesial assistant. He also served as faculty chaplain at De Smet Jesuit High School in Creve Coeur, a role he found especially satisfying.
Burial was to have been in Calvary Cemetery in north St. Louis.