S. Martha Smith, CSJ 1928-2011

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet | Sister Martha Smith | Obituary

September 7, 1928 - May 9, 2011

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Sister Martha Smith CSJ (Sister Mary Avila) who passed away May 9 of renal failure at Nazareth Living Center in St. Louis. She was 82 years of age.

Sister Martha was born in Kansas City, Mo. to parents Edmund and Anna May (Hogan) Smith. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet on September 15, 1947 and made her final profession on March 19, 1950. She received her bachelor's degree in philosophy from Fontbonne College in St. Louis in 1952 and both a master's (1959) and doctorate (1965) in history from St. Louis University.

Sister Martha taught at a number of schools in the St. Louis area during the 1950s. After a year of teaching in Indianapolis, she returned to St. Louis, taught for one year at Fontbonne College and then continued her own education at St. Louis University.

In 1965 Sister Martha began her 30-year teaching career as a well-renowned and well-respected history professor at CSJ-sponsored Avila College (now University) in Kansas City. As a teacher and a scholar, she received many awards, including a Fullbright Fellowship in 1965 and the Sears Award recognizing excellence in teaching and academic leadership in 1990.

After retiring from teaching in 1995, she focused on research and writing, most notably publishing "Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture in American Life, 1836-1920" with Carol Coburn.

Although no longer in the classroom, Sister Martha continued her presence at Avila as professor emerita. In 1997 she began serving as the volunteer manager of the Women Religious Special Collection, the first college/university library collection focused entirely on the experience of Catholic women religious. 

In 2010 she moved to Nazareth Living Center in St. Louis, Mo.

Funeral services will be on Thursday, May 12 at Nazareth Living Center, 2 Nazareth Lane, St. Louis, MO 63129. The wake is at 9:00 a.m. followed by Mass of the Resurrection at 10:00 a.m. Burial will be at Resurrection Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis Province, 6400 Minnesota Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63111-2899. Make an online donation.

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