The Rev. Robert A. McLaughlin, 65, pastor of St. Basil the Great Roman Catholic Church in Kimberton, died of a heart attack Thursday, May 27, at Memorial Hospital in Towanda.
When Father McLaughlin was appointed pastor of St. Basil the Great Church in 1998, Mass was being said in a building that also housed the parish school's gymnasium. So he launched plans to build a new church that had a community center on the lower floor and was handicapped accessible. But "he didn't want a box," his brother the Rev. Joseph J. McLaughlin said.
Father McLaughlin modified the octagonal structure to accommodate 16 century-old stained-glass windows he acquired from a South Philadelphia church that had closed, and he commissioned two new rose windows. To honor the Eastern traditions of the church's patron, St. Basil, he commissioned icons of St. Basil and other saints.
Father McLaughlin had a longtime interest in the Eastern church, his brother said. He learned to sing the Mass in Slovenian and invited a Byzantine Catholic choir to the Mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination.
Father McLaughlin grew up in West Mount Airy and graduated from Bishop McDevitt High School in Wyncote. He earned a bachelor's degree and a master's of divinity while studying for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.
After his ordination in 1973, he assisted the pastor at Holy Martyrs Church in Oreland and then taught religion at Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown.
From 1982 until 1998, Father McLaughlin was chaplain of the Newman Center at Temple University. Newman Centers minister to Catholic students at secular universities offering religious and social programs and an opportunity for students to receive the sacraments.
While at Temple, he was archdiocesan director for the Newman Apostolate for seven years, coordinating programs at all of the Newman Centers in the Philadelphia area.
Father McLaughlin, who had taken communications courses at Temple, was often the archdiocesan liaison with the media, explaining liturgical terms and Catholic dogma. From 1976 until 1998, he was also associate director of the Conference of Christian Doctrine, which oversees religious instruction for youth in the archdiocese.
He enjoyed vacations in the Endless Mountains in Pennsylvania.
In addition to his brother, Father McLaughlin is survived by his mother, Loretta McLaughlin; a brother, Thomas; a sister, Loretta; and two nieces.
Transfer of the body will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 1, followed by a viewing and then Mass at 7 p.m. at St. Basil the Great Church, 2340 Kimberton Rd., Kimberton. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Wednesday, June 2, at St. Basil the Great Church. Friends may call at 9 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.
Donations may be made to St. Basil the Great Church, Box 637, Kimberton, Pa. 19442.