Obituary: Father Robert G. McMillan, SJ, professor, chaplain, and planning office director

A good number of times when an obituary for a Jesuit is published it is brief, even if his life was long. This is, in part, explained by the reality that so many sons of Ignatius are assigned to educational institutions and their tenure almost guarantees only one or two assignments as teacher or administrator or both. There are exceptions, and the late Father Robert G. McMillan was certainly one of those.

Born in the Whaling City, New Bedford, on Feb. 23, 1932, he was the only son of the late Robert and Theresa (Gurl) McMillan. His sister Teresa Davis survives him. He attended Holy Name School, New Bedford, until the family moved to Quincy and he enrolled at Boston College High School.

In 1949, he entered the Society of Jesus, finishing his novitiate and juniorate at Shadowbrook in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. His philosophy studies were in France (1953-1956); back in the US, his regency was teaching at Cranwell School in Lenox. He studied sociology for a year at Fordham and then theology at Weston.

Cardinal Richard Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Spirit Chapel, Weston, on June 16, 1962. He completed doctoral studies in sociology at Case Western in Cleveland, Ohio, and then, for two different assignments, taught it at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester.

He was named vice-provincial for formation of the then New England Jesuit Province, serving 1973-1978. After his second stint at Holy Cross, he returned to Boston and was director of a program that would eventually become the "Jesuit Urban Center," housed in the church of the Immaculate Conception in Boston's South End. It was a combination of maintaining Jesuit presence in an historic location for the Society, of reaching out to the homeless, and to others who were on the peripheries of society.

Eight years later his sociology and statistical expertise was to be placed at the service of the Archdiocese of Boston when he was named director of the Office of Planning and Research in 1991, where he would remain until 2005.

At 73, he might have retired but with a residence at Loyola House in Boston's Back Bay, he continued to be of service to the Jesuits there as well as to parishes of the archdiocese where he readily answered calls to assist at weekend and daily Masses; as well as to continue his supportive ministry to several communities of women religious around the archdiocese, including the Daughters of St. Paul and the Carmelite Nuns in Roxbury.

He had a great sense of humor and a master at employing irony. He was gregarious and loved being with and for people. He died peacefully at Campion Center Healthcare, Weston, on Dec. 9, where six decades before he had been a theology student. His funeral Mass was celebrated at Holy Spirit Chapel on Dec. 14, where 59 years prior he had been ordained to the priesthood. Father McMillan was buried in the Jesuits Cemetery, Weston. [Ed. -- Father Joseph Appleyard, SJ, contributed to this obituary, for which The Pilot extends thanks.]