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In Memoriam

Jesuit Father Robert G. Doherty died on Dec. 9, 2017. He was born in Dorchester, a heavily Catholic section of Boston, on Sept. 22, 1929, the second of the three sons of John and Mary (Grant) Doherty. He attended the parish grammar school and won a partial scholarship to Boston College High School, where he was influenced by a scholastic, T.J.C. Kelly, who was later to be a much-admired teacher at Shadowbrook.

Because of World War II, he joined a group of students who finished high school in three years. When he graduated, in 1946, the war was all but over, and he was able to go on to Boston College, intending to be a doctor. The family had always talked about his older brother as a future priest. However, it was Fr. Doherty who, after two years at B.C., acting on what he called his “independent streak,” entered the Jesuit novitiate at Shadowbrook, in 1948.

After first vows, in 1950, and a year of juniorate, he moved to Weston for philosophy studies. During summers he pursued studies in biology and chemistry, so, naturally, when regency assignments were announced, Fr. Doherty was slated to teach English and algebra at Cranwell, the boys’ boarding school in Lenox, Mass.

After a year at Cranwell, he was assigned to teach biology at Baghdad College. Two years later, he was back at Weston for theology studies. He was ordained by Cardinal Richard Cushing, in 1960. His tertianship was at Pomfret, Connecticut, after which he was assigned to serve as assistant novice master at the new Shadowbrook. At the end of two years, the provincial suggested he go to Rome for studies in ascetical theology, or spirituality, at the Gregorian University. His studies were interrupted when he was asked to be research assistant to the noted moral theologian Fr. John Ford, who was in Rome working on documents connected to the birth-control controversy. After a year as spiritual director in the Shadowbrook juniorate, he finished his doctoral studies in Rome.

When he returned to the United States, Weston had completed its move to Cambridge, and Fr. Doherty was assigned to teach pastoral and spiritual theology; many commented on how clear and effective he was as a teacher. There, too, he experienced the new style of Jesuit living, in small communities of scholastics, spread around Cambridge neighborhoods, and shopping and cooking for one another.  There too he found the work that was to occupy most of his subsequent ministry. Jesuit Frs. Bill Barry and Bill Connolly were offering the Spiritual Exercises in a one-to-one format, pioneered by Fr. John English, SJ, in Canada and Fr. Dominic Marucca, SJ, of the Maryland Province. With Fr. Barry, he developed a spiritual formation program, which led to a master’s program in spiritual direction. Then, in 1971, at the first of four workshops the province sponsored on giving the Exercises in a one-to-format, Fr. Doherty and five other Jesuits (Bill Barry, Bill Connolly, Dan Lusch, Joe McCormick and Joe MacFarlane) came up with the idea for what became the Center for Religious Development for training supervisors in spiritual direction.

A sabbatical, in 1976, and a friendship with a faculty member at Earlham College, the Quaker school in Indiana, led to an invitation to teach theology and be involved with a spiritual formation program there. Over the following years, he kept his connection with CRD while also directing the New England Province’s tertianship and teaching at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary for delayed vocations in Weston. Another sabbatical led to his giving retreats and teaching spiritual direction in Japan, the Philippines, Korea, and other parts of the Far East. Subsequent sabbatical appointments took him to Chicago and Texas. In 1986, he moved to Campion Renewal Center, in Weston, Mass., where he directed retreats, continued to be involved with the province’s tertianship program, and taught scripture at Pope St. John XXIII from 1991 to 2011.

He was a much sought-after spiritual director at Campion Center but his health slowly declined. He died quietly in the late evening of Dec. 9, 2017.