Pontifex Minimus Blog: Presidential Reflections on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Marks at UBC

Robert Doran, the Jesuit theologian and longtime teacher, died on January 21 of a brain infection in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  We were friends—periodic in our connections and shared interests and convictions—but friends nonetheless.

We first met while my colleague, Doug Letson, and I were researching our book The Jesuit Mystique for Macmillan and HarperCollins and the point of our meeting was to get a comprehensive “read” of the multiple delineations of that rich and encyclopedic mind—Bernard Lonergan.

Bob didn’t disappoint.  I relied on him for the chapter in the book called “The Jesuit as Modern Savant,” secured an interview and then an article from him for the learned publication, Grail: an Ecumenical Journal, and formed a bond around common perspectives—ecclesial and philosophical.

He taught at Regis College in Toronto for decades, served as general editor of the monumental 25-volume Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan for the University of Toronto Press and then he went to Marquette University for his remaining years as a scholar.

But what also struck me about the man was his priestly compassion.  A mutual friend, John Montague, a retired social worker and regular parishioner at the Jesuit church in Toronto, Our Lady of Lourdes, and a person who was a close and dear friend of Bob’s for many years, told me a story about the man that speaks eloquently to his ability to combine a life of service to both the mind and to the heart.

John observed of Bob’s seemingly limitless capacity to direct doctoral theses on Lonergan that there was another side to him as well.  One day, Bob told John:  “It’s interesting that doctoral students call me urgently requesting to show their latest work on a thesis and begging to meet me as soon as possible.  Conversely, Catholic people with AIDS phone, asking for an appointment to reconcile being gay and Catholic.  They will say: ‘I’m sorry to bother you, Father, but whenever you have time, can we meet.’  Bob added: and they are dying.”

A ministry of heart and mind.



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