Obituary

By Bireley, Robert | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2004 | Go to article overview

Obituary


Bireley, Robert, The Catholic Historical Review


Charles E. Ronan, S.J. emeritus professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, died Thursday, April 8, in St. Joseph's Hospital, Chicago. He was born on Chicago's West Side on June 4,1914, and shortly thereafter his family moved to west suburban St. Charles, where he grew up as the second of seven brothers and sisters. His large extended family gave him wonderful support throughout his life, and he regularly baptized, married, and buried them. Following graduation from the then Fox Valley Catholic High School in Aurora, he entered the Jesuits at Milford, Ohio, in February, 1932.Tuberculosis overtook him during his early years in the seminary, and for many months he lay in bed and eventually lost one lung. No one would have predicted then the long life before him, but he learned to pace himself well as the years went by. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1945, he studied at the University of Havana in Cuba in 1946-47, and then had the opportunity to travel widely in South America with a view to future study of Latin American History. Upon his return to Chicago, he completed a Master's Degree at Loyola University while teaching part-time at Loyola Academy.

The year 1952 found Father Ronan beginning work on a doctorate in Latin American History at the University of Texas, Austin, which he completed in 1958. There he studied under Lewis Hanke, then perhaps the leading man in the field. Hanke was well-known for his generally sympathetic treatment of Spanish colonialism in the New World, a view not popular then and out of favor today, perhaps unfairly so. Hanke confirmed the direction of Father Ronan's own intellectual instincts. His thoroughly revised dissertation was published much later as Francisco Javier Clavigero, S.J. (1731-1787), Figure of the Mexican Enlightenment: His Life and Works (Rome, 1977). He always spoke fondly of his years ill Austin.

After brief teaching stints at the University of Detroit (1956-57), Loyola University (1957-1960), and Xavier University, Cincinnati (1960-1963), Father Ronan settled in at Loyola University, where he remained a stalwart of the Department of History until his retirement in 1984. There in addition to the survey courses on Western Civilization, he regularly taught courses in Spain during the Golden Age, the Colonial Age in Latin America, Mexico during the Colonial Period, and a survey course on Mexican History. His revised dissertation appeared in 1977, and much later a similar study, Juan Ignacio Molina:The World's Window on Chile (New York, 2002). After the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, both the Mexican Clavigero and the Chilean Molina were exiled, as still relatively young men, to Italy, where they played a significant role interpreting Latin American culture and society to Europeans. Father Ronan spent a great deal of time tracking down their papers in Italy so as to tell their story, and he published a number of their letters in various articles. …

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