August 9, 2019

Award winner helps others find their strengths

Holy Cross Brother Roy Smith, right, smiles after he received an award for his commitment to community service—an award that was presented to him on July 24 in Baltimore during the annual joint conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons. He was joined during the awards ceremony by some of his siblings including Joseph Smith and Sister Demetria Smith, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa. (Submitted photo)

Holy Cross Brother Roy Smith, right, smiles after he received an award for his commitment to community service—an award that was presented to him on July 24 in Baltimore during the annual joint conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons. He was joined during the awards ceremony by some of his siblings including Joseph Smith and Sister Demetria Smith, a Missionary Sister of Our Lady of Africa.  (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Roy Smith’s life changed forever when he turned down a full scholarship to play football in college after graduating from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

He instead made the choice to become a Holy Cross brother, and ever since he has been changing the lives of other people.

He’s done it through his efforts in family counseling, refugee resettlement, civil rights activism and helping youths with emotional challenges.

“The Lord calls us to be who we are,” Brother Roy says. “I was created as a black male and that is the gift, the vehicle, if you will, the Lord asks me to exhibit a part of the face of God. A portion of the way for me to share my gifts has been as a Holy Cross brother.”

That approach in his 57 years as a Holy Cross brother recently led to a prestigious honor for him. Brother Roy received the Father Joseph Davis Award on July 24 in Baltimore during the annual joint conference of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, the National Black Sisters’ Conference, the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association and the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons.

“Father Davis was on the ground floor of forming the National Office of Black Catholics around 1968,” Brother Roy says. “They give an award in his honor for community service—how you touch or influence lives in the black Catholic community.”

Now 75, Brother Roy says his own life was influenced by the education he received growing up in Indianapolis—as a 1957 graduate of Holy Angels School and a 1961 graduate of Cathedral.

He was such a force on the football field in high school that the University of Louisville offered him a full ride to play the game there. But there was a greater pull on him for his future.

“The Holy Cross brothers at Cathedral were demanding but they were also caring. I thought I’d like to do the same for other people as they did for me and my fellow students.”

Brother Roy has primarily touched and influenced lives as a social worker. He began that influence in Milwaukee where he worked at a home for emotionally-challenged delinquent boys in the 1960s. During that time, he also became involved in the civil rights movements, advocating for improved housing opportunities for blacks.

He has also been a social worker in a Catholic high school in Chicago and for Catholic Charities in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese.

“You’re thinking you might help someone—to help them realize the strengths they have,” Brother Roy says. “I worked with refugees. I did family and individual counseling, and marital counseling.”

He continues to work, serving as the development director for the Congregation of Holy Cross in South Bend.

“I like the work I do, and I’ll try to do it as long as I can.”

That commitment to service led to the honor for Brother Roy, who served as the president of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in the late 1980s.

“I was grateful but humbled,” he says about the award. “In my mind, there are other people out there who have done so much more. When I received the award, I choked up. To be recognized by your peers is really an honor.” †

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