Robert Dennis Riley, O.P.
Born: Jul. 3, 1926
Professed: Aug. 16, 1954
Ordained: Jun. 16, 1960
Died: Dec. 28, 2006
Father Robert Dennis Riley, O.P., died in George Washington Hospital in Washington, DC, at the age of 80, as the result of a fall and severe head injury from which he never regained consciousness.
A native of Dorchester, MA, a part of greater Boston, he attended parochial and high school there and then graduated from Providence College. In 1953, he received the Dominican habit at St. Stephen Priory, Dover, MA, and, having completed his Novitiate, was professed in simple vows in 1954. Upon the completion of his studies in philosophy and theology, Father Riley was ordained to the priesthood at St. Dominic Church in Washington, DC, on June 16, 1960.
His early years as a priest were spent in parish ministry at St. Dominic Parish in Youngstown, OH, from 1961 to 1964, and for the following two years as parochial assistant at the Dominican parish of the Holy Name of Jesus in Valhalla, NY.
Before entering the Dominican Order, Robert Riley served in the United States Navy during World War II, and later, from 1966 to 1987, once again joined the Navy, this time as a Chaplain, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. Throughout his extraordinary career as a Navy Chaplain, Father Riley served aboard the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. From 1982 to 1984, he was Command Chaplain for the U.S. Sixth Fleet in Gaeta, Italy, and his final active-duty assignment was at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. Father Riley’s military decorations included two awards of the Navy Commendation Medal.
After his military retirement, Father Riley was assigned to St. Dominic Priory in Washington, DC, where he served in many capacities, often assisting with the parish duties and celebrating Mass at the Pentagon almost every day. In addition, he served the Dominican community in the administrative position of procurator until the very day of his fall.
His body lay in state in the Chapel at St. Dominic Priory where the Dominican community chanted the traditional Office of the Dead on the evening of January 2, 2007. On the following morning the funeral Mass was concelebrated in St. Dominic Church in the presence of a large gathering of friends and admirers, including the Chief of Navy Chaplains. The principal celebrant was the Vicar Provincial, Father Raymond Daley, O.P., who read publicly a letter from the Archbishop of the Military Archdiocese who highly praised the accomplishments of Captain Riley at the time of his retirement; the homilist was a classmate, Father Raymond Vandegrift, O.P.; and the final Commendation was conducted by the Prior of St. Dominic’s, Father George Muller, O.P.
An impressive military burial took place in the Dominican plot of Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington.
May the soul of our beloved Robert Dennis Riley, O.P., who served both God and country so nobly, rest in peace forever. Amen.