Died 13 November 2014
Jesuit Father Robert R. Dorin died on Nov. 13, 2014, at Campion Center, in Weston, Massachusetts. Fr. Dorin was born on Sept. 9, 1930 in Meriden, Connecticut, one of six siblings. His parents, Peter J. Dorin and Anna Knap, had come from small villages in the Carpathian Mountains in what is today Eastern Slovakia. The family attended St. Nicholas of Myra, a small Eastern rite Byzantine church in Meriden. Fr. Dorin was baptized, confirmed, and celebrated, as he said, his first Divine Liturgy there in the Slavonic Rite.
In high school Fr. Dorin intended to take Latin, but a friend told him “Latin’s no good” and said he should take German, which was the start of his life-long love of the language and culture of Germany. After high school he worked for Dun and Bradstreet in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1952, during the Korean conflict, he was drafted into the Army and after a year in Augusta, Georgia, was sent to Salzburg, Austria, which gave him the opportunity to travel frequently throughout Germany. Leaving the Army, he enrolled at Fairfield University and graduated in 1958.
That same year, he entered the novitiate at Gloucester, Massachusetts on Sept. 1, 1958, and in November moved with his classmates to the new Shadowbrook at Lenox. Fr. Dorin had absorbed his family’s love of music, and especially the piano, but the novice master allowed him to play the piano only 15 minutes a day. He studied philosophy for two years at Weston College, then taught English and German at Xavier High School in Concord, Massachusetts from 1962 to 1964. He returned to Weston College to study theology. During the summers he studied German at Middlebury College in Vermont. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Nicholas Elko of the Byzantine Catholic Church in 1967. The following year he did tertianship in Portland, Oregon. After tertianship, Fr. Dorin studied German language and literature for four years in Munich, Germany. In 1973 he was assigned to teach German, English, and history at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine. He then did doctoral studies in German at New York University. In 1983 he began teaching at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, which he did for 13 years. During these years, he spent many summers in Germany, which gave him opportunities to visit the Carpathian villages where his parents had lived and experience some Cold War adventures.
During this time Fr. Dorin decided teaching was not for him and, remembering his time as a novice working in Boston City Hospital and a clinical-pastoral education program he did in tertianship, he enrolled in the first of several clinical-pastoral education quarters at a Spokane hospital, an experience that shaped the pastoral focus of the rest of his life. In 1997, he completed his CPE training, was certified as a hospital chaplain, and then worked for a year as a chaplain at the Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane and for seven years at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. In 2006, he returned to New England for a year of study at the Center for Religious Development, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and then worked as a chaplain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for the next six years until he retired from hospital work.
Fr. Dorin once said there were five strands in his life: his Carpathian/Rusyn heritage, his love of German language and literature, his Jesuit vocation, his work as a hospital chaplain and spiritual director, and his love of music. The last strand was no minor passion; in the final years of his life Fr. Dorin worked through three-and-a-half of the seven volumes of Bela Bartok’s progressively more difficult piano studies, Mikrokosmos. Another passion was his love of the outdoors, bicycling, and mountain hiking.
In January 2013, he was assigned to Campion Center. A year later he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and moved into the health center, where he died in the early morning of Nov. 13, 2014.