PROVIDENCE — Father Robert Joseph Clark, 81, died on April 25, 2020, at Hope Health Hulitar Hospice Center in Providence, Rhode Island, after a short illness. He was born in the Archdiocese of Boston on February 12, 1939. His parents were John Francis Clark and Catherine Powers Clark.
He attended St. Catherine's Grammar School in Charlestown, Mass. Later, his family moved to St. Peter's Parish, Dorchester, Massachusetts. His high school years were at Boston Trade School. During his last year in high School he became interested in becoming a priest and entered St. Philip Neri School for Delayed Vocations.
Desiring to become a Columban missionary priest, he entered St. Columban’s College and Seminary, Milton, Massachusetts in September, 1958. After two years there he went on to Spiritual Year in Bristol, Rhode Island. This was followed by two years of philosophy study at the Columban Major seminary in Milton, Massachusetts. Bob was chosen to go as an exchange student to the Seminary at Dalgan Park in Ireland for two years and returned to Milton for his final two years of theological studies. He was ordained on December 18, 1965, at St. Columban's Major Seminary by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Riley, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston.
During the summer of 1966, Father Clark took on an assignment at St. Benedict’s Parish in Amherst, New York, before leaving for his mission assignment in the Philippines. In January 1967, he began a language course in Tagalog. He was assigned to Binangonan, Rizal, as an assistant. Later he was appointed to Cardona, Rizal before going to Morong, Rizal, as acting pastor in August 1969, continuing there as director of the high school. He finished up his time in the Philippines in August 1970.
After a vacation, he went to St. Agatha’s Parish in South Buffalo, New York, for three years. The Columbans assigned him to vocation work in Chicago for the next two years.
He was reassigned to San Francisco in September 1976, to do vocation work on the West Coast, becoming Superior of the San Francisco house in April 1977. He also became a member of the Regional Council and a member of Alcoholism Advisory Group for the Region. In November 1979 Bob was appointed Regional Liaison with the National Federation of Priest Councils.
In March 1980, Father Clark was granted permission to do a course in clinical pastoral education and eventually became a CPE supervisor. He stayed in hospital ministry for three years. In May 1983, Bob received a M.A. in Theology from the University of San Francisco. He spent some time at St. Columban’s, Nebraska as national vocation director.
Father Bob received permission to attend an eight-week summer chaplain’s course. He was later commissioned in U.S. Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps. He was in the reserves for about 18 months, saying Mass for his unit on weekends at the reserve center in Omaha. He continued as the National Vocation Director. Eventually he asked to go on active duty with the Navy. He served on a Destroyer Squadron out of Mayport, Florida for two years, he was chaplain on the annual Unitas Cruise around South America, served at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center for three years, then at Naval Air Station Alameda, California. In January, 1994, he volunteered to go with the Marines. He was stationed for six years at Camp Pendleton, California. During that time, he went with them to Kuwait, to southern Iraq and to Somalia.
Father Clark left the service in September 2000. After Spanish language studies, he and Fr. Barney Toal went to St. Mary’s Parish, Fontana, California in February 2001. Father Clark was pastor there until 2006 when he retired to Bonsall, California. But he continued to do mission appeals, retreat work and parish missions. He served as the manager for the 2012 Columban General assembly in Pacific Palisades, California.
In March of 2019, Father Clark moved to the Columban Fathers residence at Bristol, Rhode Island. He is survived by his sister Mary. His wish is to be buried with his family in Dedham Massachusetts. Funeral arrangements will be simplified because of the virus.