Father Robert B. Grimaldi, SJ, a missionary who labored in rural Honduras for over 40 years, died May 5, 2021 at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos, after a long struggle with cancer. He was 83 years old and had been a member of the Jesuit order for 65 years.
Robert Bartolomeo Grimaldi was born in San Jose May 17, 1937, the only child of Bartolomeo Grimaldi and Enrichetta Gagliasso Grimaldi. He graduated from Bellarmine Prep, San Jose, in 1955 and entered the Jesuit novitiate at Los Gatos that summer. His studies were made at Gonzaga University, Spokane, (BA, MA, philosophy), College de l’Immaculée Conception, Montreal (STL, theology) and Notre Dame University (MA, French). He was ordained a priest in San Francisco June 1, 1968.
In his early Jesuit years, Father Grimaldi taught French at Bellarmine Prep, San Jose (1962-65, 1970-75) before embarking on his life-long work as a missionary priest in Jalapa, Mexico (1975-77) and, for a 43 period, in rural northern Honduras. He served in three very large parishes in El Progresso (1977-88), Olanchito (1989-2000) in Yoro State, and Tocoa, in the adjoining state of Colón (2000-20). Sometimes he had the help of another Jesuit, but was often alone, travelling from mountain hamlet to banana plantation by bicycle during the dry season, by foot during the torrential rains. His mission parish in Olanchito, for example, covered 23,000 sq. km., the size of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties combined. He built, and often rebuilt chapels, and schools, often damaged during frequent hurricanes. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 was especially devastating.
In addition to sacramental ministry, he trained people in the villages as lay ministers to assist in faith formation between his visits, recruited teachers for the primary school, and led youth retreats that attracted large numbers of participants. Returning to the U.S. for medical reasons in 2020, he was not able to return to his parish as he had hoped.
Private funeral services were held at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, Los Gatos.