Frank Colborn, Catholic priest, theologian, author and teacher, the beloved brother of Melissa and Fran, uncle of eight and dear friend to many, passed away on December 6. His funeral mass will take place at St Raphael’s Church in Goleta at 11 am on December 15.
Born in Berkeley to Frank and Anne Colborn in 1938, and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his sisters Fran and Melissa, Frank was ordained in Rome on December 18, 1963, after studying with the Jesuits at the Gregorian University there. He would return to Rome in 1969 to gain his doctorate in moral theology. Meantime, he began work as a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles where he would serve for much of his life. During the 1970s (‘interesting times’ as he said) he taught at St John’s Seminary in Camarillo. There he joined students and others in objecting to US military policy in Southeast Asia. He marched with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers, and was instrumental in helping an urban community organizing effort get started in LA. In the 1980s, he moved on to be pastor of a largely Spanish-speaking church in East LA and joined the faculty at Claremont College, mixing academic and pastoral duties. He then moved on to an African American parish, The Holy Name of Jesus, after the LA riots of 1992. Following a final term as a pastor in Pasadena, he retired from administrative responsibilities in 2007, relocating to Santa Barbara to live near family. He would continue to be of service, assisting at St Raphael’s parish for many years, and especially loved engaging with the Hispanic community, often conducting the Mass in his fluent Spanish.
A life-long campaigner for social justice, Frank’s heroes were Blessed Charles de Foucauld, Canon Josef Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Workers, and Dorothy Day, whom he was very proud to have had the privilege of meeting on a few occasions. He read widely throughout his life, from philosophy and theology to pulp fiction and sci-fi fantasy, and in recent years he turned to writing witty, warm, and eclectic short stories for his pleasure – and the delight of his family. A lifelong writer and an immersive researcher, his academic writing work recently culminated in the publication of his book THE EVOLUTION OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL ETHICS. (Wipf and Stock, 2020; https://www.amazon.com/Evolution-Catholic-Social-Ethics-Palaeolithic/dp/1725260832). This remarkable study is as ambitious and illuminating in its own way as Harari’s Sapiens, offering an expert synthesis of the history of social thought. Frank’s fine mind and generous heart will be much missed by all, and his memory will always be a blessing.