Goodbye, Father Bob

Source: journeychristianmagazine.com

Mother Teresa once said that some people come into our lives as blessings, others as lessons. Jesuit Bob Doran was both to me. I am not a scholar, so it was an unexpected surprise when Bob and I became close friends. It started in the 1980’s when I met him at a retreat weekend I was part of organizing for people with HIV/AIDS.

Father Bill McNicholls the retreat director told us about the Healing Service he led in New York City. At the height of the pandemic, many Catholics were dying of complications from AIDS. Some weeks after the retreat, I told Bob there was a huge need for a Healing Service at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in downtown Toronto.

After discerning prayerfully, Bob took on leadership, and monthly healing masses began from 1989 – 2014. These were very important prayerful services, where some people who had felt alienated and unwelcome by the Catholic Church, found a welcoming home.

One day Bob told me that there were two groups of people who were calling to meet with him. At the time I didn’t fully realize that Bob was a significant theologian publishing two inch thick books, commentaries on Bernard Lonergan’s philosophical and theological ideas. Consequently doctoral students sought him out to direct their theses.

One day he said: “ It’s interesting that doctoral students call me urgently requesting to show me their latest work on a thesis, and begging to meet me as quickly 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’re dying.”

Bob also enjoyed life, which included going to the beach, single malt scotch, and dinners with friends. He came to our house many times over the years for a hearty evening of conversation and humour. Several Christmases we went together to hear Handel’s Messiah at Thomson Hall. Someone  gave me two tickets for a Blue Jays game playing the Brewers at the Skydome, that we watched together.

The more I realized his scholarly work was unparalleled, the more surprised I felt at being part of his cadre of close friends. Our relationship was founded on a shared belief in Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

Despite highly abstract metaphysics, and the world of theoretical ideas, Bob was very down to earth. Several years ago he returned to Milwaukee and taught Lonergan’s Method in Theology at Marquette. While there in January 2021 he developed a brain infection, and took his final journey. Now he knows all the answers to all the questions.  I miss him. Requiescat in pace.

John Montague earned his Master of Divinity from Regis College, University of Toronto. He is an active member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. He has a Master of Social Work, and, until his retirement, provided counselling to individuals, couples, and families. For the past seventeen years he has organized a Day of Reflection for Catholic parents of lesbian daughters, gay sons, and transgendered children.

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9 Comments
  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:15h, 25 January Reply

    Thank you John!

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 03:57h, 25 January Reply

    A beautiful story of a true friendship.

  • Michael Coutts
    Posted at 07:32h, 25 January Reply

    Beautiful, John

  • Charles S. Pottie-Pate
    Posted at 07:32h, 25 January Reply

    Thank you John for this beautiful tribute to Bob Doran. You are right. He was down to earth with all even with those 2 inch thick books on Lonergan. I knew him as a colleague at Regis College and as a companion in the Society. You and i and many others will dearly miss him.

  • Philip Shano
    Posted at 08:48h, 25 January Reply

    Thanks John. Thanks for sharing your experience of Bob. A man with an amazing intellect, but also an amazing heart.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 09:27h, 25 January Reply

    John, thank you ever so much for your reflections of your friendship with Fr. Bob. I too share many of the same sentiments and memories. Bob was one of those persons that when you met him, you had the sense that you had always known him. That was an amazing gift!

  • Rosemary McGinn CSJ.
    Posted at 16:16h, 25 January Reply

    Thanks John,that is a wonderful tribute to Father Bob. He truly helped me out numerous times,when I would call him to come for Pallative Care clients.They were so grateful to receive the Sacrament of the Sick,in their Final Days.Families also felt so supported with the Liturgies at Our Lady of Lourdes.Gratefully Rosemary McGinn CSJ.

  • Mary Jo McDonald
    Posted at 11:05h, 26 January Reply

    Bob was a wonderful mentor/director to me as a MDiv and ThD student. He not only taught me about self-appropriation, that is, becoming aware of thought and feeling processes, but he also was an example of authenticity in observing his own. I feel honoured to have known him and studied under his tutiledge.

  • Connie SHAW
    Posted at 21:24h, 02 February Reply

    Thank you John for a remarkable tribute to Bob. I knew him through the HIV/AIDS Services at Lourdes. It was a time of grace and learning for me. I so enjoyed his friendship and admired his leadership with us all. My only trepidation was when I was invited onto his 22nd floor balcony. I hugged the wall.
    A gentle and holy man who was so good with the assortment of “us”.
    Thanks for letting me know of his death. Another friend in heaven.

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