In Memoriam

Father Jonathan Robinson

The Very Rev. Jonathan Robinson, Founder and Superior of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Toronto, died June 3, 2020 at home, after a brief illness. Fr Robinson was born in Montreal in 1929 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1962. He was educated in Montreal, Edinburgh, and Rome. For several years after ordination he served as Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger’s English Secretary. 

During a three-year stint as Chairman of the Philosophy Department at McGill University, he felt called to establish a house of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in Canada. The Holy See formally erected the Montreal Oratory in 1975, and the Apostolic Visitor of the Confederation of the Oratory blessed the young community’s move to Toronto in 1979. While in Toronto, he served as Provost of the Toronto Oratory, as well as Rector of St Philip’s Seminary, at various times also acting as Pastor of both Holy Family and St Vincent de Paul Churches. He was a Chaplain of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Besides his academic publications, Fr Robinson also wrote four popular books of spirituality: On the Lord’s Appearing; Spiritual Combat Revisited; The Mass and Modernity; and In No Strange Land.

Vespers of the Dead was live-streamed on Tuesday, June 9, at 4:15 p.m. when the body had been received into Holy Family Church. A booklet for Vespers can be downloaded here. Fr Robinson’s Solemn Requiem Mass was live-streamed Wednesday, June 10 at 10:00 a.m.. A booklet for the Mass can be downloaded here. The burial took place on Wednesday, June 10 at the Oratorian community plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Orangeville.

Memorial cards are available at Holy Family Parish. They can also be downloaded to be printed.

As part of our commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of Fr Jonathan Robinson, our founder, we are delighted to make available this documentary film about his life and work.

Filming began in June of 2020, and roughly thirty hours of interview footage were filmed. Due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time, the production had to be an in-house project, so all of the equipment was scavenged from our live-streaming setup. Additional footage from alumni and friends of Father Robinson was also sent in, though much of it did not make it into the final cut of the film. The Brothers scoured through photo albums and old archives, discovering photos that even some of the other Fathers had not seen before.

The project ended up being very enriching for the Fathers and Brothers of the Oratory, and we hope that you can also gain something from the film. Please continue to pray for the Toronto Oratory, and for the repose of Father Jonathan’s soul.

Donations in Father Robinson’s memory may be made to the Toronto Oratory Renovatio Fund, dedicated to the construction of a new seminary building, a project dear to his heart. Messages of condolence can be left on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.