Missionary, first superior of the restored Society of Jesus in the U.S.; b. Lancashire, England, July 24, 1738;d. Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 1808. Molyneux was descended from an old Catholic family, and in 1757 entered the Society of Jesus, where he had been preceded by his older brother William. During his training, Robert taught at the Jesuit school at Bruges, Belgium, where John carroll, the future American archbishop, was enrolled, and the two men became close friends.
In 1771 Molyneux was sent to the U.S., arriving in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on March 21. After the death of Rev. Robert Harding the following year, Molyneux became pastor of old St. Joseph's and of the larger church nearby, St. Mary's. He was an excellent preacher, and his funeral sermon on the death of his colleague, Rev. Ferdinand Farmer, in 1786 was one of the first Catholic items printed in the U.S. He was also instrumental in founding the first parochial school in Philadelphia before going to St. Francis Xavier Church, Bohemia Manor, Maryland (1788), where he replaced John Lewis, former vicar apostolic for Maryland and Pennsylvania. Two years later, Molyneux departed for Newtown, St. Mary's County, Maryland. During this period he also helped to establish Georgetown College, Washington, D.C., on a firm foundation, and became its second president in 1793. He held this office until 1796 and returned for another term as president in 1806.
Having learned that the Society of Jesus, which had been suppressed in other countries, still existed in White Russia (now Belarus), former Jesuits in the U.S. expended every effort to aggregate themselves to this body. Arrangements were finally completed, and Molyneux was appointed first superior by Carroll on June 21, 1805. Thaddeus Brzozowski, Jesuit general in Russia, confirmed the appointment on Feb. 22, 1806. The first novitiate of the restored Society was located at Georgetown, and on Aug. 18, 1806, Molyneux renewed the simple vows of the Society at St. Thomas Manor, Maryland, in the Church of St. Ignatius, whose cornerstone had been laid in 1798 by Carroll.
Bibliography: p. k. guilday, The Life and Times of John Carroll: Archbishop of Baltimore, 1735–1815, 2 v. (New York 1927). h. foley, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, 7 v. (London 1877–83).
[j. m. daley]