Jesuit Father John O’Brien died on Nov. 7, 2015 at Rene Goupil House in Pickering, Ontario, in the 92nd year of his life and 71st year of religious life. Fr. O’Brien was born on July 3, 1924, in Montreal, Quebec, son of John Joseph O’Brien and Rose Anne Egli. After early schooling at Lajoie School, Outremont, Loyola High School, and Loyola College (B.A. ’45) he entered Jesuit community life in Guelph, Ontario, in 1945. After the usual studies in Guelph and Toronto and three years of teaching at Loyola High School in Montreal, followed by theology studies, he was ordained a priest on June 23, 1957 by Cardinal McGuigan.
Fr. O’Brien first studied educational psychology at Fordham University and the University of Toronto and later finished a Ph.D. in Communications at the University of Southern California (1964). He returned to Montreal to establish the first Department of Communication Arts at Loyola College, the first such department in Canada.
He had a distinguished number of years becoming a full professor and administrator, and serving as Acting Vice-President for a while. In 1983, he was called to Rome by Father General Pedro Arrupe to serve as the International Secretary for Social Communications (JESCOM) in the General Curia. He also served as a visiting professor at the Gregorian University, the Head of Multimedia International, and as a Consultor for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for the Vatican. This work took him to all continents and many countries of the world.
In 1990, Fr. O’Brien returned to Canada to become the director of the Manresa-Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre in Pickering, Ontario. He would return to this work a second time in 2005. This was a change of pace for Fr. O’Brien and his organizational and counselling skills were brought to the fore. His explicit celebration of the spiritual life and priestly sacraments in the context of the activities of the retreat house were shared with many. He was also a shrewd financial manager. While in the Toronto area, Fr. O’Brien was a popular counsellor and did some part-time teaching at St. Augustine’s Seminary. He also established the Communications Desk at the Province Curia and was, almost to the moment of his death, providing spiritual direction and counseling to many.
Fr. O’Brien had a fine record of research and publication mainly connected with media communications and the world of the Church. He had been involved in many broadcasts and films and served on many professional and expert committees for the Bishops’ Conference and for different universities. One of his dearest projects was the work he did on the Ecumenical Pavilion at Expo 67. He received many awards and recognitions throughout his life.
For more on Fr. O’Brien’s legacy please visit Concordia University’s website.