During his 25-year tenure as Yale’s Catholic chaplain, Robert Beloin encouraged thousands of Catholic students that walked through the doors of Saint Thomas Moore chapel to be leaders on campus and in their parishes.
Beloin passed away on Sunday due to glioblastoma — an aggressive form of brain cancer — eight months after announcing his illness to the STM community.
In a collective statement to the News, the STM pastoral team said that Beloin confronted his illness with wisdom, humor, faith, humility and gratitude — the same traits that defined his life.
In the final days of his illness, according to Karl Davis, an assistant chaplain at STM, Beloin maintained his positive outlook and strength.
“Moments of challenge in his life have become opportunities for discovering a greater truth, opportunities for growth and excellence which resonates with the character of Yale” Davis told the News earlier this month. “Recently, Father Bob said to me after naming the challenges of being ill, ‘I am surprised by the many blessings that have come with a life-changing illness.’”
During his quarter of a century as chaplain, Beloin spearheaded several major initiatives on campus. He introduced the “Small Church Community” model — Bible study sessions for eight to 12 people — to Yale students in order to foster an intimate support system within the Catholic student body. Additionally, he led a fundraising campaign to promote Catholic intellectual life on campus that raised over $75 million. The money was primarily used to construct in 2006 the Thomas E. Golden, Jr. Center on campus, a spacious student center adjacent to the STM chapel.
The Association of Yale Alumni presented Beloin with the Yale medal in 2011, saying in his bio that “his dynamic approach to faith formation and his way with students, especially those in difficulty, is remarkable.”
In addition to his institutional projects, Beloin was also involved in a multitude of day-to-day services, now firmly established at STM. An especially popular new tradition was his 10 p.m. mass on Sundays, which was followed by late-night snacks.
Beloin has also illustrated a commitment to social justice independent of his Catholic ministry. A year ago, Beloin and Davis were arrested for blocking the entrance to a courthouse in Hartford during a demonstration against the planned deportation of undocumented immigrants.
After he announced his illness in January, Beloin received over 800 letters of support from members of Yale’s greater Catholic community, his previous parish communities and other friends. Since his passing, many who attended his masses have reached out to STM with stories of how Beloin touched their lives, said Jennifer Schaaf, assistant chaplain of STM.
“I have been a personal friend of Father Bob for over 45 years.” said Gerard Schmitz, interim chaplain at STM. “His wisdom, his laughter and sense of humor, his faith in time of difficulty and his leadership skills provided a strong role model for all who knew and loved him.”
Schaaf noted Beloin’s commitment to ingraining within his students a desire for the intellectual exploration of Catholicism. She said that Beloin would encourage students to study their faith with the same rigor they apply to their academic studies.
According to Nicole Perone DIV ’16, who became acquainted with Beloin in her time as his altar server during mass, Beloin often said that young people are the hope of the church, noting that he was ahead of his time in doing so.
Perone added that Beloin “worked indefatigably” with local and national groups to build a Church most worthy of the gifts of the young people he adored.
Beloin played such an important role in Perone’s life that she and her fiancé met with him to receive his blessing on her upcoming nuptials. Perone said that her relationship with Beloin was “one of the most profound treasures” of her life.
“Father Bob made me feel so seen, and more than that, he made me feel as though the greatest joy of his day was laying eyes on me,” said Perone. “He had that charming effect on all who knew him — generations of Yalies might claim that each of them was Father Bob’s favorite, and they would all be correct.”
Jever Mariwala | firstname.lastname@example.org