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Obituary: Father Robert “Bob” Weakley, OFM

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Fr. Robert “Bob” Weakley, OFM, died Jan. 23 at St. John the Baptist Friary in Cincinnati. Fr. Bob, 80, served as a teacher, pastor and chaplain, and was known for his love for reading, walking and good conversation.

Born on March 31, 1941 in Peoria, Ill., Fr. Bob was one of four children of Leo and Dorothy (Gerber) Weakley. He attended St. Boniface School in Peoria before starting high school at the Spalding Institute in Peoria in 1955. After one year, he transferred to St. Francis Seminary in Cincinnati, where he was graduated in 1959. Fr. Bob was invested as a novice at St. Anthony Shrine in 1960, receiving the religious name “Walter.” (He returned to “Robert” before ordination.) After his first profession of vows in 1961, Fr. Bob entered Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Mich., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and made his solemn vows on Aug. 16, 1964. Fr. Bob received his M.Div. degree from St. Leonard College in Centerville, Ohio, where he was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1968.

Fr. Bob’s first assignment was as a teacher and head of the Religion Department at Cincinnati’s Roger Bacon High School from 1968 to 1976. During these years, he also earned a master’s degree in religion from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. in 1971, by attending summer classes. In 1976, he was assigned to Batesville, Ind. as associate pastor of St. Louis Parish. In 1980, he moved to Emporia, Kansas., as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.

Over the years, Fr. Bob was assigned as pastor to a number of parishes throughout St. John the Baptist Province: Sacred Heart Parish in Calumet, Mich. (1986-92); St. Mary of Lourdes in Metamora, Ill. (1992-2001); and then back to St. Louis in Batesville (2001- 02). After preparing for the departure of the friars from St. Louis Parish, Fr. Bob took a well-earned sabbatical year. In 2003, Fr. Bob was named pastor of St. Michael Parish in Southfield, Mich., which merged with other parishes in 2007 to become Transfiguration Parish. He remained there as pastor until 2009, when he moved back to his hometown of Peoria as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish from 2009 to 2012. Fr. Bob was then asked to serve as the director of priestly formation at Blessed Giles Friary in Chicago. In 2014, he began seven years of ministry as chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg and guardian at Holy Family Friary.

Fr. Bob was also actively involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, helping many, many people embrace and celebrate sobriety. Even in his last months of life, when he was no longer able to go out to AA meetings, he faithfully worked the program “one day at a time,” by staying in contact through Zoom meetings.

By February of 2021, Fr. Bob’s health was diminishing. He retired from active ministry after celebrating a jubilee of 60 years as a friar. In July, his continuing decline led to a move to St. John the Baptist Friary to receive needed additional nursing care.

Fr. Bob was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Michael, and both of his sisters, Patricia Hall and Kathryn “Kay” Matranga. He is survived by sister-in-law, Mary Weakley, brothers-in-law, David Matranga and Dave Hall, and several nieces and nephews. He is also survived by friar classmates, Frs. Michael Chowning and Leonard Cornelius, and his close friend, Sr. Aline Paris, RSM.

Friars, family and friends will receive Fr. Bob’s body at Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, Ind., on Friday, Jan. 28, at 9:30 a.m. The Mass of Christian Burial follows at 11 a.m., with interment immediately after the Mass in the friars’ section at Holy Family Cemetery in Oldenburg.
Memorials may be made in care of FriarWorks, 1615 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

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