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In Memoriam

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Robert M. Doran, SJ, who died on January 21, 2021, at Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee. He was 81 years old. May he rest in peace.

Bob was preceded in death by his parents, Michael and Helen, and his younger brother, Bill.

Bob was born in New York on June 20, 1939, and he attended grade schools in New Jersey, Milwaukee, and Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. After graduating from Marquette University High School (1956), Bob entered the former Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus at Oshkosh on August 16, 1956. He was ordained on June 4, 1969, at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee, made tertianship during 1980-1981, and pronounced final vows at Regis College in Toronto April 16, 1982.

During the normal course of studies, Bob earned a bachelor’s degree (1962), a licentiate degree (1963), and a master’s degree (1964) in philosophy from St. Louis University. He earned a doctorate in theology from Marquette University (1975) and, throughout his career, Bob specialized in Catholic systematic theology and the philosophy and theology of Bernard Lonergan.

During regency, Bob taught at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha (1963-1966). After ordination and while he was in doctoral studies, Bob was director of campus ministry at Marquette University (1970-1972). After earning his doctorate, Bob taught Theology at Marquette University (1975-1978) and at Creighton University (1978-1979) before being missioned to teach at Regis College in Toronto. While at Regis (1979-2006), he was a professor of systematic theology, researched and wrote, was editor of the collected works of Lonergan, director of the Lonergan Research Institute, and was trustee of the Bernard Lonergan literary estate. In 1994, Bob transcribed to (i.e. became a member of) the English-speaking Canadian Province.

In 2006, Bob returned to Marquette University (and transcribed back to the former Wisconsin Province) where he was a professor of systematic theology until his death. Bob also was the trustee of the Frederick Crowe literary estate (2012-2021) and the coordinator of the International Institute for Method in Theology (2017-2021).

Bob was a great man and devoted Jesuit who truly exemplified commitment and dedication. He was passionate about his work, which for him was ministry and vocation. He was an engaged community member and a wonderful presence in community. Bob’s dual citizenship (U.S. and Canada) allowed him to easily work and connect with colleagues and friends in Toronto each Christmas and summer.

Bob was a teacher and mentor to many. From his days in regency at Creighton Prep through his many assignments and places of ministry, he always took a keen interest in all who passed through his life. Always available, always interested in listening to the questions and needs of others, Bob was present in mind, spirit, and enthusiasm for others. He always seemed to know the important questions to ask people as they discerned the issues (anything from the mundane to the significant issues) which emerge in one’s personal journey. He always felt the person with whom he was talking was capable of the “best self” and encouraged all he knew with a purposeful, faith-oriented response to life. Bob built up a community of scholarship that includes the legacy of Bernard Lonergan, SJ, and Frederick Crowe, SJ. This community has grown to include many students, scholars, and friends across the globe.

Bob was considered one of the most gifted Catholic theologians of recent decades. He was a kind, inspiring, and much-loved teacher, forming generations of younger academics who were inspired by his thought. At the level of research and publication, his life was dedicated to a twofold task: preserving the legacy of Lonergan and expanding upon this in his own, creative, way. On the former point, his achievements included being first coeditor, and then editor-in-chief of The Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, which produced its 25th and final volume in 2019. He was also proud of the fact that, in 2016, he fulfilled another dream of Lonergan: launching an “Institute of Method in Theology,” a network of groups of academics who agree to employ Lonergan’s method in addressing diverse themes in philosophy, theology, and the social sciences. On the latter point, Bob displayed immense creativity in two phases.

First, he added to Lonergan’s notion of religious, moral, and intellectual conversion an invitation to a fourth, “psychic” conversion. From the time of his doctoral dissertation in 1975 to the publication of Theology and the Dialectics of History in 1990, he explored the implications for theological method of expanding Lonergan’s initial foundations in this way.

Secondly, he decided to apply his methodological thought to producing a comprehensive systematic theology. Here he followed through on a hint offered by Lonergan regarding how a “four-point hypothesis,” based on an account of the relations between the persons of the Trinity could provide a hinge around which all themes in systematic theology could be explored. He outlined his plan for such a project in What is Systematic Theology? (2006) and carried it out in a three volume work, The Trinity in History: A Theology of the Divine Missions. Volume one and two of this have already been published, and volume three is with the printers. Already, these works have inspired numerous references, in journals such as Theological Studies from theologians who take a lead from Doran’s innovative thought.

He had a heart for the suffering, including those with AIDS, who he ministered with.

He also knew all the news about his beloved Milwaukee Brewers and looked forward to the season each year. And he enjoyed a good Trappist beer, especially with friends!


Wednesday, February 3, 2021
11:00 a.m. (CST)
Church of the Gesu
Milwaukee, Wis.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance is limited. A livestream of the funeral will be available via the Gesu website: