The Rev. Joseph P. Whelan, S.J., who had been provincial of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus before becoming the American assistant to the superior general of the Jesuits in Rome, died Monday of cancer at the Loyola Infirmary at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
Father Whelan, who was 61, was named provincial in 1979 and held the post until 1984 when he was called to Rome, where he remained until 1990. From 1971 until 1978, he was assistant for training and education to the Maryland provincial.
In 1974, he joined the provincial and a former provincial as representatives of the Maryland Province at the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in Rome.
In 1991, he was named a research fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington and then last year joined the staff at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, Pa.
The Rev. George Aschenbrenner, S.J., director of the Wernersville center, said, "Father Whelan, with his incisive mind, sensitive heart and delightful wit, had a profound impact on the staff and the work of the center even though his stay was less than a year. . . ."
Born in Brighton, Mass., Mr. Whelan attended Georgetown University and entered the Jesuit novitiate that was at Wernersville in 1954.
He received a licentiate in philosophy from Fordham University in 1959, then taught Latin and English at the Scranton (Pa.) Preparatory School for three years.
After studying theology at Woodstock College, then in Maryland, he was ordained in 1965. In 1969, he received a doctorate in theology from King's College of the University of London.
From 1969 until 1971, he taught spiritual theology at Woodstock College, then in New York City.
He was the author of two books, "The Spirituality of Friedrich von Hugel" and "Benjamin: Essays in Prayer"; and editor of a third, "The God Experience."
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. today at the novitiate chapel in Wernersville.
Survivors include his father, Frank H. Whelan of Brighton; a brother, the Rev. Frank Whelan, S.J. of Toronto; and a sister, Anne Dennison of Brighton.