Missionary who thirsted for knowledge dies at Techny

Father Roger Arnold, 1933-2008

Arnold,_Fr_Roger_for_webThe Rev. Roger Arnold, 75, a Divine Word Missionary, psychologist and educator, died Aug. 12, 2008, in Techny, Ill.

Father Arnold, who lived on three continents, was many things to many people—a priest, a scholar, a professor, a clinical psychologist, a judo instructor and more.

"I often likened Rog to a light switch–when he was on, he was full power; whereas, the rest of us work more like wind-up toys," said Rev. Mark Weber SVD, provincial of the Society of the Divine Word’s Chicago Province.

"Rog had an incredible energy and enthusiasm, and he threw himself into whatever he was doing–whether that was cutting grass, reading a new book, or giving a talk or homily," he said. "This enthusiasm drove him to understand things and gave him an ability to make connections and integrate apparently unrelated things into a unified whole."

Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1933 to Simon and Teresa (nee Brandl) Arnold, he was the eldest of five children. In 1947, he entered the SVD high school seminary in Girard, Pa., and professed first vows with the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in 1953. In 1955, he graduated from Divine Word College in Epworth, Iowa.; attended St. Mary Seminary at Techny from 1955 to1961; and was ordained to the priesthood in 1961.

Dedicated to learning, Father Arnold earned a licentiate (M.A.) in canon law from Gregorian University in Rome in 1963 and then went back to Illinois to teach canon law, moral theology and pastoral theology at the seminary at Techny. While teaching, he also worked on a doctorate in the psychology of personality at Loyola University (Chicago), which he completed in 1976.

A professor who taught group therapy at Loyola ignited Father Arnold’s interest in judo, which emphasizes non-violence and self-defense. The priest went on to become a black belt and taught classes for children at the North Suburban YMCA in Northbrook and for adults at Elk Grove High School.

To gain clinical psychology training, Father Arnold accepted a job as an assistant psychologist at the State of Ohio Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison, in Lucasville, Ohio, for one year. For another three years, he worked as a staff psychologist at the Mental Health Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.

In 1980, Father Arnold returned to Techny and founded the Center for Human Development, which integrated psychological counseling and religious experience. Influenced by the work of Father Bernard Lonergan SJ, a philosopher-theologian, Father Arnold said he wanted to offer psychological counseling that took a person’s religious convictions into account, a practice that most traditional psychologists did not provide.

Teaching called him again in the late 1980s. From 1988 until 1994, Father Arnold taught at Missionary Institute London in England and the Lonergan Institute in Toronto, Canada. In 1994, he once again returned to Illinois, this time to serve as the SVD formation director at Divine Word Theologate in Chicago.

After nine years as formation director, he accepted an assignment to the SVD Postulancy House in Kabwe, Zambia. Most recently, he was in the United States visiting family and was preparing to go back to Africa.

"To me he epitomizes a man who never ceased to challenge himself and push the boundaries, and that impresses me more than anything in this world," said Father Wojciech Szypula SVD, a Polish missionary who studied theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and served with Father Arnold in Zambia.

Father Arnold is survived by his sister, Sister Ann Arnold. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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