Assignment Record – Bro. Robert L. Benish, s.j.

Summary of Case: Robert Benish entered the Jesuits as a postulant at the Oregon Province's Novitiate in Sheridan, Oregon in 1941. He made his perpetual vows as a Jesuit Brother in 1944. Benish remained in Sheridan until his transfer to St. Mary's Mission in Alaska in 1946. He spent his entire career thereafter at St. Mary's. His roles were as boys' prefect, baker, postmaster, gardner and ham radio operator. As prefect, Benish spent nearly 24-hours per day with the boys, including sleeping in their dormitory. Benish retired to a Jesuit residence at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington in 1989, and died in April 1991. Benish' s name was included on a list in the Fairbanks diocese's 2010 bankruptcy documents of 'Individuals against whom a complaint of abuse has been asserted by more than one person'.

Jan. 1, 1944
Died: April 24, 1991


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State/Country Position Notes

June 1941

Portland in Oregon archbishop was Edward Daniel Howard (1926-1966).

1946 Jesuit Novitiate Sheridan OR postulant 1941; noviceship 1942-1944  

Oct. 1946

Vicariate Apostolic of Alaska bishop was Walter James Fitzgerald, s.j. (1945-1947), followed by Francis Doyle Gleeson, s.j. (1948-1968).

Aug. 1951 St. Mary's Mission (Old St. Mary's) Akulurak AK baker; prefect of the boys Per Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska, By Louis L. Renner, s.j., being prefect of the boys "meant being with them virtually around the clock.......eating with them, sleeping in the same dormitory with them, praying with them, going hiking, picnicking, berry picking with them, teaching them practical skils, working with them."

Aug. 1951

Fairbanks was elevated to a diocese Aug. 8, 1962.

Robert Louis Whelan, s.j. succeeded Gleeson as bishop (1968-1985).

1975 St. Mary's Mission (New St. Mary's)

St. Mary's

• In the Fairbanks diocese's 2010 bankruptcy documents Benish's name was on a list of those 'against whom a complaint of abuse has been asserted by more than one

AK baker; prefect of the boys; ham radio operator; postmaster (1951-1970); gardener  


Anchorage archbishop was John Joseph Thomas Ryan (1966-1975), followed by Francis Thomas Hurley (1976-2001).

1976 Sabbatical Anchorage AK   Benish took courses in cooking and baking at the Community College.
1976 late 1987 St. Mary's Mission St. Mary's AK    

late 1987

Michael Joseph Kaniecki, s.j. replaced Whelan as Fairbanks bishop (1985-2000).

Oct. 1989 Jesuit Residence Fairbanks AK semi-retirement  

Oct. 1989

Spokane bishop was Lawrence Harold Welsh (1978-1990), followed by William Stephen Skylstad (1990-2010).

April 1991 Jesuit House at Gonzaga University Spokane WA retirement Benish died April 24, 1991.


Sources: Alaskana Catholica: A HIstory of the Catholic Church in Alaska, by Louis L. Renner, s.j.

Brother Robert Benish, Missionary, Associated Press, carried in Seattle Times, April 26, 1991
Excerpt from Bankruptcy Reorganization Documents for Fairbanks Diocese 1.25.10, p. 1 Excerpt from Bankruptcy Reorganization Documents for Fairbanks Diocese 1.25.10, p. 1
Alaskana Catholica: A History of the Catholic Church in Alaska, By Louis L. Renner, s.j.

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Bennish's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on May 11, 2014.

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