Eno, Father Robert Bryan, S.S.

1997, February 13

Date of Birth: 1936, November 12

September 2, 1997

There is a letter in the Provincial House files that was written by Father Robert Eno, S.S., in view of the new provincial administration to take office in 1997. He wanted his superiors to know well in advance of his plans for retirement. He intended to continue teaching at the Catholic University of America until the summer of 1999. Then he wanted to spend a sabbatical year at Berkeley 1999-2000. On September 1, 2000, he would retire from CUA after thirty years on the faculty and before his 64th birthday. For his remaining days he would live at the Sulpician house at Vaugirard near Berkeley in “research and writing.” Though the outgoing Provincial Council deferred acceptance until after the new Council took office; it was a higher authority who canceled these typically well-thought-out plans: Robert Bryan Eno was called in death on February 13, 1997.

Born November 12, 1936, Robert was the son of Earl Bryan Eno and Bernice Sarah Landers. His parents had only one other child, Paul F. Eno, about fourteen years Bob’s junior and now a freelance writer and editor in Woonsocket, R.I. Robert grew up in St. Mary’s parish, East Hartford, CT, and attended the parish school 1941- 1951. He then applied to the minor seminary of St. Thomas in Bloomfield, CT, from which he graduated in 1956. His scholastic record was such that he was eligible for a Basselin scholarship at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., with residence at Theological College. After obtaining the M.A. in Philosophy in 1959, he began his theological studies that culminated in the S.T.L. degree in 1963. One of his contemporaries in Washington then has written that “he was the best and the brightest. He was a year ahead of me at T.C. and, even then I lived in awe of him.” Bob was ordained a priest in Hartford by Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien on May 23, 1963.

For several years before ordination he felt attracted to life as a Sulpician and made application for acceptance as a candidate in the 1960-61 school year. The 1962 faculty evaluation revealed that “he has lived the life here just about perfectly, going about his work and prayer with great seriousness of purpose. He is deeply devout and most regular in the observance of his spiritual exercises, but without ostentation. He is polite in his dealings with others. He is an extremely able student.” Despite being somewhat shy, Bob was very well accepted among his peers and commanded their respect. The Provincial asked Archbishop O’Brien to release Robert for Sulpician work on March 20, 1962, and the release was granted three weeks later on April 9.

Robert begged off from the usual summer school studies in 1962 because of obligations he had to his widowed mother and younger brother. This concern for them would be at least a minor theme running through his whole priestly life. In a period when Sulpician compensation was anything but fulsome, he would look for ways to provide for the needs not of himself but of his family at home. The summer before ordination he could claim a good knowledge of French; he had also studied Italian and Spanish and had the essentials of German. These essentials were fortified by a summer course in German at Johns Hopkins in the months after ordination. In the summer of 1964, he worked in a parish in New Haven near Yale, where he was tutored in Dutch so that he could handle the theological literature in that language. In the year between those two summer courses, he lived at Divinity College at CUA so that he could begin the study of ancient language including Advanced Greek and Syriac as well as courses in Roman history, the Latin Fathers, and the works of Origen.

In the fall of 1964, Robert Eno joined seven of his fellow candidates for the Sulpician Solitude at the former Dohme estate in Roland Park. The Director was Father John F. Linn; his Socius was Father John S. McDonough. Of the eight members in this Solitude group only Bob Eno continued as a Sulpician until his death.

In the fall of 1965 Bob went to Paris to study at the Institut Catholique to complete the course work necessary for his doctorate. He came home the following summer and worked at CUA, with the idea of moving back to the Solitude house to finish his thesis. But before that arrangement could be finalized, he had an offer to work with the editors of Corpus Instrumentorum to produce a Catholic Theological Encyclopedia; permission was granted him for one year.

After that year as editor for Patrology for the CTE, he got permission to take part in the quadriennial Patristics Congress in Oxford, England, the only professional meeting for patrologists and the only such meeting that Bob would attend with great fidelity. Though he had planned to return to writing his thesis, he was needed at St. Mary’s, Roland Park, as a replacement for Father Daniel Fives as professor of patrology; there was a call also to continue his work on the Catholic Theological Encyclopedia on a part-time basis. For a year he commuted between Roland Park and Washington and still found time to work on his dissertation. Then from 1968 to 1970 he taught at Roland Park full-time. Somehow or other, it all worked out, because he was able to complete his thesis on “The Christian Didaskolos and the Institutional Ministry of the Church according to Origen” and obtain his doctorate in Paris in 1969.

In January of 1970 Bob made formal application for a Sulpician assignment to Theological College. From the first it was understood that he would live at T.C., be a part of the faculty there, and be ready for a teaching position at CUA. As a matter of record, Father Eno was an assistant professor of Church History at the University from the fall of 1970 on. This did not guarantee him tenure at CUA; he still had to write and do research. In fact, by the spring of 1972 it was decided that Bob would no longer have faculty responsibilities at T.C., but he would continue in residence. Even so, in March of 1976 he was refused tenure because of a number of late-arriving recommendations, though at the same time he was promoted to associate professorship. Happily, he was able to appeal the decision, line up sufficient evidence of research, and see in February of 1977 the committee reverse itself and grant him tenure.

During those early years in Washington, too, Bob was concerned about his widowed mother’s housing situation and about his brother’s attending first St. Thomas’ Seminary in Bloomfield, CT, and then Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg, NY. His worry about seeing to their support gave an initial false impression to his Sulpician superiors. The tension was resolved only when the Province finally replaced the vestry system with a new way of supporting its members.

Also, during the 1970s there began to appear an aspect of Bob’s eating habits with which we later became more familiar. In July of 1970 there was a note from Father Purta, the Provincial, concerning “the devastating news about McDonald’s hamburgers and the suit against them.” In the next couple of years Father Carroll McHugh had a few mentions of Bob’s deep dietary devotion to hamburgers, to the exclusion of almost everything else except for a growing love of pasta when his first love was not available.

In the meantime, Father Eno had been called on a number of times by the Sulpicians for his expertise. In January 1972 he served as a member of a subcommittee on the interchange of Sulpician academic personnel. In July of that same year he acted as a translator for the General Assembly in Paris. A year later he was a part of the Sulpician Think-Tank that met in Washington, and he went to an October meeting in Paris for the revival of the Bulletin du Comite des Etudes, to which he would contribute for a number of years in its new form of the Bulletin de St. Sulpice. In 1974 he was elected as a delegate to the Sulpician Assembly in San Francisco in May. Two months later he was in Europe for the Sulpician Assises; he could note “continued improvements in the hamburger situation,” not only in Paris but in London and Fribourg as well. In 1975, after taking part in the CUA summer school workshop, he went to Europe for the editorial board meeting of the BSS as well as the Patristic Congress at Oxford as translator. At the end of the session he found himself elected as a part of the committee that worked on the final English version of the Sulpician Constitutions that had been approved by the General Assembly.

By 1977 his reputation was growing beyond the limits of the Sulpician community and the University. Early that year he was chosen as a Catholic representative on the Roman Catholic-Lutheran Bilateral Ecumenical Consultation. He would meet regularly with this group for a decade and a half. In 1994 the Roman Council for Promoting Christian Unity would appoint him to the International Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue. At its first meeting in Karjaa, Finland, in September 1995, he spoke on the current state of the dialogue. The Sulpician Archives is proud that it was chosen to be the repository for much of Father Eno’s records of these ecumenical dialogues.

In the spring of 1977 Bob served as Visiting Lecturer at the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. The following year he was entitled to a sabbatical from CUA. However, in 1978 he was elected to the Sulpician General Council. What was supposed to be a year of study and research in Tubingen ended up as five months at the German University, a return to the U.S. for the December General Council meeting in Baltimore, more service on the ad hoc committee for translating the Constitutions into English, the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in February, and General Council meetings in Rome and Paris in spring and summer. He also had to give a paper at Angers in August on the meaning of “Minister of the Church,” as well as attend the Patristic Congress in September.

Hardly had he returned to Catholic University in Washington when he was appointed Associate Chairman of the Department of Theology, with the responsibility for all admissions to degree programs. He served from 1983 to 1986 as Chair of the Church History department. This led to a 1982 letter full of frustration at the amount of administrative work he had to do and the consequent difficulty of finding time for research. He was still able to give a talk in 1981 to the Patristic Congress at Oxford on the “Augustinian Solution to Doctrinal Problems.” This was one of the long, long list of talks, articles, and other publications that he shared with the world of learning over the years of his research and study. There were other contributions too. For instance, in 1983 he worked on the document issued by the General Council in its Rome meeting on La Pratique de la Pedagogy de St. Sulpice. After a 1985-86 sabbatical at Berkeley he was one of those chosen for the Mois sulpicienne for middle-aged Sulpicians at Issy in July 1987. And in August he spoke to the International Conference on Patristic Studies on “Papal Damage Control in the Aftermath of the Three Chapters Controversy.” In that September he was back in Chicago for the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue. This was followed by a leave of absence from CUA to spend the fall as Visiting Professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland. There, as Tuohy Professor of Interreligious Studies, he offered a series of six lectures on “The Origins and Rise of the Papacy,” covering the first five centuries of the Christian era. In December he took part in the meeting of the General Council, with a January gathering in Montreal for the BSS. And he served as an observer at the Provincial Assembly in San Francisco, also in January.

In the midst of all this activity, he had a heart attack after he got back to Washington in February 1988. He wasn’t old enough to qualify for recuperation at St. Charles Villa; so, he returned to Theological College after a stay in the hospital. With the surgery Bob began a new dietary regimen. Pasta was in; hamburgers were occasional at most. He strove to respect the cautions the doctor gave him about fat-laden foods. Nevertheless, his health did not keep him from celebrating his silver jubilee of ordination at home in Hartford in early May 1988 and at the Sulpician retreat in Los Altos, CA, later in the month. But he did begin to withdraw from some of the duties that had been his. After meeting with the Provincial Council as a preliminary to the 1989 General Assembly, he took part in the Paris meeting but ended his twelve-year service as General Councilor. The following year he resigned as a member of the board of the BSS. He did receive promotion to the rank of full professor at CUA and also served as a member of the group that planned and carried out the magnificent Interprovincial Reunion in Baltimore in July 1991. He was also able to take his 1992-93 sabbatical at Berkeley.

Gradually he opted to restrict his activities to focus on research. But in the process, he became more visibly a part of the TC scene. The members of the community became more aware of the considerable role he played in the daily life of the house -- his homilies, his almost endless fund of knowledge, his intimate contact with what Father Howard Bleichner called “his boon companions, ... Sts. Augustine, Gregory the Great, Fulgentius of Rupee” et al. More obvious now was his wonderful sense of humor. He was truly a hilariously funny, witty person with that special zaniness which come from high intelligence.... He always retained the philosopher’s eye for “the odd, canted comers of life where the edges never seem to meet.”

Bob had an almost infinite eye for details. As Father Al Giaquinto mentioned, most people would look at the National Shrine across the street from Theological College and see the total ensemble; Bob would note every last inscription, sculpture, and architectural detail. Perhaps that was why Robert Eno, with all the other things he had to remember, would be the one to match up a former student (John Erickson of Tennessee) with the property of the former seminary college in Catonsville. Out of that juxtaposition came the present-day retirement community known as Charlestown. This would make Bob a kind of godfather in the project.

Beyond all the other special memories we have of Father Robert Eno are what Father Bleichner termed his truly wonderful idiosyncrasies. He was not only non-mechanical, he was anti-mechanical. He never learned to drive. He never learned to use a computer. Complex mechanical objects or gadgets were natural enemies. They came at him, always ready to invade his space. He regarded the spread of the internet with the same deep sense of foreboding with which his great mentor, St. Augustine, regarded the advance of the barbarians on Rome.

In January 1996 Bob reported a semester break that had enabled him to visit Hawaii. He also told of the encouraging visit he had had with his doctor. In February the Provincial made a visitation to Theological College when he also elicited Bob’s (and others’) views on recommendations for the General Assembly in July. Bob also traveled to Rothenburg, Germany, in September for the meeting of the International Lutheran-Catholic Consultation. But a few months later it was all over. On the day after Ash Wednesday, “Bob died the way he had lived -- quietly, after class and before dinner, fully dressed, his affairs in order.” As Howie Bleichner further noted, “He never missed anything. He was always there. That’s how we knew he died.”

On Sunday night, the community, his family (the mother and brother he had long been concerned about), and many friends filled the Theological College chapel for a wake service, led by Father Al Giaquinto. The next day, the University community and about 150 priests celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial in the crypt church of the National Shrine, with Bishop Leonard J. Olivier as main celebrant and Father Howard Bleichner as homilist. Two days later he was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Cemetery, East Hartford, CT, after a memorial Mass at St. Mary’s parish, with Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin as main celebrant and Father Richard McBrien, a classmate, preaching. Father Gerald L. Brown, Provincial Superior, and Father Thomas R. Ulshafer, S.S., represented the Society on this sad occasion. Father Brown, in his closing reflections at the graveside, gave praise and thanksgiving to God for the gift of Bob’s Sulpician life and his ministry as a scholar, and for the gift Bob was to the Church and to the Society. He assured Mrs. Eno of the Society’s care for her, and he promised her our continuing prayers, support, and presence.

John W. Bowen, S.S.