Jesuit Father Robert J. Welsh died on Aug. 30, 2018, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 82 years old.
Fr. Welsh was born on June 6, 1936, in Cleveland. He entered the Society of Jesus on September 1, 1954, at Milford Novitiate in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained on June 14, 1967, at Colombiere College in Clarkston, Michigan. He took final vows on March 25, 1976, in Cleveland.
Fr. Welsh attended Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland before entering the Society (1950-1954). After entering the Society, Fr. Welsh earned a bachelor’s degree (1959) and master’s degree in history (1965) and theology (1968) from Loyola University Chicago. He earned a licentiate in philosophy from West Baden College in West Baden, Indiana, (1961) and a licentiate in sacred theology from Bellarmine School of Theology in North Aurora, Illinois. (1968). Fr. Welsh also received honorary doctorates from the College of the Holy Cross (1995) and John Carroll University (1996).
Fr. Welsh spent most of his Jesuit life working at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. During regency, Fr. Welsh taught Latin at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1961-1964). After ordination, Fr. Welsh returned to Saint Ignatius High School where he taught theology and was director of student spiritual counseling (1968-1972). He left Cleveland for one year while he did tertianship at St. Beuno’s College in St. Asaph, North Wales, United Kingdom. Fr. Welsh returned to Saint Ignatius and worked in the student counseling and religious formation departments (1973-1975). He became the school’s first director of development in 1975. In 1979, Fr. Welsh became the president of Saint Ignatius High School. While president he developed the campus and made Christ-centered education a hallmark of the school.
Fr. Welsh was concerned about and convinced that Saint Ignatius be dedicated to the spiritual development of the students, faculty, staff, and parents. Thus, he supported the development of a well-staffed campus ministry and participated himself in senior retreats. He supported Fr. Jim Lewis’s 19th Annotation retreats for faculty and parents. The capstone for Fr. Welsh was the building of St. Mary’s Chapel, with the support of Mr. Murlan Murphy. Fr. Welsh said, “No boy should come to school without passing a church.” He may have been a superb fundraiser, but he was so much more a priest, confessor, and spiritual counselor.
While he was president, Fr. Welsh was an auxiliary consultant for the former Detroit Province (1980-1982) and a province consultor (1982-1989). After Fr. Welsh completed his presidency, he took a sabbatical and then became pastor of Gesu Parish in Toledo, Ohio (2001-2003). In 2004, he moved back to Cleveland to be vice president for mission at St. Martin de Porres High School where he helped with staff formation (2004-2006). He was superior of the Saint Ignatius Jesuit Community (2007-2010) while also being a student chaplain and spiritual director for faculty and staff at Saint Ignatius High School (2008-2015). In addition to these responsibilities, Fr. Welsh was the assistant director for mission and identity at Jesuit Retreat House beginning in 2008. He also worked in a healing ministry while serving as president of Saint Ignatius. A profound love of the Lord Jesus was at the center of his life and all he undertook. He moved to Colombiere Center in 2015 to care for his health.