Msgr. George W. Cummings, the founder of Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School, St. Raphael Parish in Englewood and San Pedro Parish in North Port, as well as longtime Pastor at Epiphany Parish, died Aug. 8, 2020 in Brooksville at the age of 102.
Ordained in Nov. 27, 1943 for the Diocese of St. Augustine, which covered the entire state of Florida at the time, Msgr. Cummings first taught at St. James Cathedral School in Orlando and then helped found Archbishop Curley Catholic High School in Miami. In addition, he founded Our Lady of Good Counsel Camp for youth in Citrus County at which he served as Director for many years.
Within the Diocese of Venice, Msgr. Cummings was the founder of St. Raphael Parish in Englewood (1957), Epiphany Cathedral Catholic School in Venice (1959), and San Pedro Parish in North Port (1965), all while serving as the second Pastor of Epiphany Parish (now Cathedral) from 1956-1976. At the request of Archbishop Joseph Hurley, he was given the ecclesiastical honor of Domestic Prelate (now Honorary Prelate) by Pope John XXIII in 1959.
After serving at Epiphany, he was assigned as Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Citrus Park from 1976 until his retirement in 1991. He also served as Youth Ministry Director for the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
All funeral services will be held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle, 5815 5th Avenue N., St. Petersburg, and will be as follows:
Visitation: Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00 p.m.
Funeral Mass: Thursday, August 13, 2020, 10 a.m., Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch will be the Main Celebrant, with Very Reverend James B. Johnson as Homilist.
Leslie S. “Mitzi” Magin, a longtime supporter of the Catholic Church and particularly for Catholic Education in Collier County died July 13, 2020. Throughout her 87 years her support was manifested in a myriad of ways.
Known for her generosity and colorful outfits, Magin was born in Chicago but grew up in California where she graduated from the University of California Berkley. After getting married to James Magin, and residing in Chicago for 24 years, where she was actively involved in numerous charities, in 1987 the couple moved to Naples.
Magin became active in the numerous charities, including St. Ann Parish, St. Ann Catholic School Foundation, St. John Neumann Catholic High School, all in Naples, as well as the Catholic Institute for Pastoral Studies (then known as the Rice School) in Port Charlotte. She was also a longtime member of the Advisory Board for the Emerald Ball, which benefits Catholic Charities of Collier County. In addition, she was involved with Ave Maria School of Law (Board of Governors and a founder of the Veterans’ Memorial Library), Professional Givers Anonymous, Naples Community Hospital (NCH Magnolia Ball to benefit cancer programs), and the NCH Healthcare Foundation. An example of her generosity can be found on the campus of St. John Neumann Catholic High School where a 35-foot Celtic Cross was dedicated to her honor in 2010.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane was saddened by the death of Magin, noting that her commitment to Catholic Education inspired others to follow her lead. “She was a dear friend who thought of others first.”
The goal of providing a proper, well-rounded learning experience for as many children as possible, was of the utmost importance to Magin and she firmly believed Catholic Education was the way to achieved that. Magin knew that although children must be fed, clothed, and given shelter, their education was the most valuable asset to their future. She is noted as saying, “By offering such, we not only help develop mind, body, and spirit but also their sense of knowing the true meaning of freedom, social justice, and peace; and that by accomplishing this, we plant a ‘seed of hope,’ not only for their future, but for all mankind.”
Magin was preceded in death by her husband of 50 years, James in 2012, as well as her brother, G. Stuart Spence Jr., in 2019. She is survived by her stepmother, Grace Spence of San Francisco, her brother, Richard Spence (Leanne) of Wilsonville, Oregon, her sister-in-law, Carol L. Spence, of Montecito, California; and nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass will be held at St. Ann Parish at a future date when friends and relatives can safely gather again. Memorial donations may be made to the St. Ann School Foundation, St. John Neumann Catholic High School Scholarship Fund, or Ave Maria School of Law.
Deacon Donald Healy, the oldest Permanent Deacon to be ordained for the Diocese of Venice, who served at St. Ann Parish in Naples, died April 2, 2020. He was 83. Deacon Healy was born in Rome, N.Y. and was a highly recruited college athlete in three sports. He ultimate chose football and played as a two-way player (office tackle and defensive guard) for the University of Maryland before he was drafted in the third round (37th overall) by the Chicago Bears in 1958. He was then selected in the 1960 expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys where he still holds the team record for recovered fumbles in one season (5), the longest standing record in team history. He played his professional final season with the Buffalo Bills before retiring in 1962 due to injuries. He lived for many years in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he and his wife Genevieve (Shea) Healy raised four children. He worked in agricultural chemical sales and then later in the automotive parts industry. The couple moved to Naples in 1995 and Deacon Healy eventually earned an advanced degree in theology, a requirement for his lifelong dream of becoming a Permanent Deacon. When he was 70, he was ordained a Deacon by Bishop John J. Nevins on Oct. 25, 2006 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and was assigned to St. Ann Parish. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, four children, and 11 grandchildren. A Memorial Mass will be held later at St. Ann Parish.
It has once again been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Venice that parishioners have received text/email messages from people pretending to be priests or Bishop Frank J. Dewane and requesting donations in the form of gift cards and/or wire transfers. The messages often greet the person by name and have the priests name in the closing signature of the message; this is a well-crafted and targeted attack on the Church across the country which has hit our Diocese again. These text/email messages are ‘spoofed’ fakes that should not be responded to or taken seriously by anyone. The best defense against this sort of scam is to raise awareness in the community and not respond or open any worrying attachments. It is Diocesan policy that no priest or staff within the Diocese request donations in the form of gift cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc.
There is already an established process in place on how parishioners can make donations and participate in the life of the Parish. Whenever a parishioner is worried about any request for money from the parish or a priest, they should immediately call their parish and under no circumstances should they respond to these scam requests.
Neumann golfer earns First Tee! scholarship
St. John Neumann Catholic High School graduating senior Sophie Shrader has been announced as a recipient of a $10,000 a year scholarship from The First Tee! Shrader has participated in The First Tee for eight years and represented the organization in many national opportunities. Shrader will continue her education in the fall at the University of West Florida.
Letters bring smiles to medical professionals
Second graders from St. Martha Catholic School in Sarasota have been distance learning and one of the things they learned about through reading is about communication through letter writing. The students read a story called “Dear Juno” and their assignment was to write letters of appreciation and send goodie baskets to the medical professionals at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The staff took time to take a picture and send thanks to the students.
Roof work taking place in Avon Park
A much-needed roof replacement project is taking place at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Avon Park. The church roof is being replaced and upgraded to ensure its safety and security for years to come.
Mooney teacher earns Doctorate
Sarah Hard Gates, a Theology instructor at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, and 1997 graduate of the school, successfully defended her dissertation and was awarded her PhD in Education from Abilene Christian University. She previously earned degrees from St. Leo University, the University of South Florida, and Barry University. Gates, a beloved teacher who is considered one of the “fun” teachers, has been teaching at Cardinal Mooney for 16 years.
Athletes distance training in Naples
The St. John Neumann Catholic High School Celtic Football Team isn’t letting this time for social distancing ruin their plans to start next season as strong as possible. The boys in Naples have been working hard each morning with their at-home workouts, while connecting with their teammates and coaches via ZOOM!
Rosary maker group keeps busy
The Our Lady of the Angels Parish Rosary Outreach group in Lakewood Ranch has continued to be busy! In the past few weeks more than 400 rosaries have been made. They are given to nursing homes, assisted living residences, hospitals, people in religious education classes, Confirmandi, First Communicants, and for others to hand out. Some 500 rosaries have gone to Africa for children’s rosary groups and 400 will be going to Cuba with The Society for the Propagation of The Faith (once travel resumes). The Rosary is our sword in these difficult times, and the goal of the Rosary Outreach is to spread the beauty of prayer through the rosary.
Students take virtual field trip to museum
The St. Francis Xavier Catholic School fifth grade in Fort Myers recently was provided a special treat, courtesy of The Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. Students were taken on a virtual field trip led by museum staff where they were able to see the Ringling grounds, some special portraits and paintings and learn about the life of John Ringling.
Community service during quarantine
Leave it to a Diocesan Catholic school student to turn the challenge of a quarantine into a giving opportunity. Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School Freshman Morgan Franklin in Sarasota took it upon herself to still be committed to community service during our stay home policy and cut her hair for Locks of Love, for those suffering from hair loss. She shared before and after photos of herself online, as well of as the hair that will be donated.
Year of Saint Joseph
On the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, 2020, Bishop Frank J. Dewane consecrated the Diocese of Venice to the care and protection of Saint Joseph in the context of the Coronavirus. The Bishop announced a “Year of Saint Joseph” beginning March 19, 2020 through March 19, 2021. Saint Joseph, often referred to as the Protector, can be our protector during this time of the pandemic. To pray a Novena to Saint Joseph please visit the Year of Saint Joseph webpage at www.dioceseofvenice.org.
Online Preached Retreats
During the current health crisis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice is offering online 3-day, 5-day, and 8-day retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In these online retreats, Father Mark Yavarone, OMV, or Father Lino Estradilla, OMV, trained spiritual directors, will meet with you for an hour each day via a link provided to you, to help you to pray and to recognize how God is speaking to you. A Bible and journal should be available for your use. Participants will be emailed any additional materials needed as the retreat unfolds. The cost is as follows: 3-day online retreat, $132.23; 5-day online retreat, $203.98; and 8-day online retreat, $306.48. All information will be confidential, and password protected. If you would like to participate in an online retreat, please email Denise Riley at email@example.com and a code will be provided for your online registration as well as an application. For planning purposes, please allow 7 days from your completed application until the beginning of your retreat.
Father Onorio Benacchio, Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrinians), who was a priest for nearly 70 years and served in the Diocese of Venice for 25 years, died April 23, 2020, in Kingston, Rhode Island. He was 95.
Father Benacchio served as Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston from 1994 to 1996 and then as a Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee from 1996 to 2019.
Born April 15, 1925 in South Nazario, Vicenza, Italy, to Gaetano and Caterina Benacchio, it was at the age of 12 when he entered the Scalabrinian Seminary in his hometown. Father Benacchio took his first religious vows on Sept. 4, 1943, and was ordained to the priesthood, June 18, 1950 in Piacenza, Italy, when he was 25.
Following his ordination, Father was appointed to serve the poor in missions in South America in accordance with the Scalabrinian Charism. He spent 36 years attending to the needs of the missions in Brazil and then eight years in Venezuela.
He came to the United States and the Diocese of Venice in 1994. He was 69 at the time. He served as Pastor of St. Margaret Parish in Clewiston before being transferred for the final time in his long ministry to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee. There he celebrated Mass is English, Spanish and Creole, while also celebrating Mass for the Portuguese-language Catholic community each weekend in Fort Myers.
During a Mass marking the occasion of his 65th anniversary of his Ordination to the Priesthood, Father Benacchio estimated he had celebrated Mass more than 25,000 times. “But celebrating Mass today, after so many years, still feels like it is the first time… It is what I do, what I always do and what I will always do. It is at the heart of what a priest is all about, that moment when you are closest to Jesus Christ.”
His favorite memories included his extensive time and travels in South America. To help relax, he liked to write poetry.
A memorial Mass will be held at a later date while the public celebration of Mass has been suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Father Dennis Cooney, longtime Pastor of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres died April 13, 2020. He was 71.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane said the death of Father Cooney was a loss for the Diocese and in particular St. Raphael Parish, where he served as Pastor for 19 years.
“Father Cooney was a priest who had a passion for his ministry,” Bishop Dewane said. “Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Cooney, for the people of St. Raphael who found inspiration by his good work, and for his family for whom this loss is particularly personal.”
The death of Father Cooney is particularly difficult during this time when the public celebration of Mass has been suspended in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. A memorial Mass will be held at a later date.
Father Cooney was born in 1947 in Brooklyn, NY., to a devoutly Catholic family and attended Catholic schools before entering Our Lady of Hope Junior Seminary in Newburgh, N.Y. and then Oblate College in Washington, D.C. for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Ordained in 1974 at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the first assignment for Father Cooney served for several years as Parochial Vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish in Washington. From there he studied at Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL). Father Cooney then taught at the Oblate College before serving for seven years as a preaching missionary on the Oblate Mission Band. Following this service, her returned to Oblate College where he served as president and instructor from 1990 to 1992.
Father Cooney entered the Diocese of Venice in July 1994 and was incardinated into the Diocese in 1996. From 1994-2000 he served as Parochial Vicar of Ss. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Bradenton. It was in 2000 when Father Cooney was appointed as Administrator of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres and as Pastor on June 27, 2001.
As Pastor of St. Raphael Parish, Father Cooney added an outdoor Stations of the Cross, erected a Shrine to the Unborn and later added statues of St. Michael and St. Gabriel the Archangels to the Prater Garden, joining statues of St. Raphael and St. Tobias. For the Diocese of Venice, Father Cooney was Moderator for the Respect Life Office and taught theology as part of the Diocesan Diaconate Formation Program.
A dynamic speaker of theological issues, Father Cooney was called upon to speak to numerous groups in the Diocese. He also served as the spiritual advisor for the Naples Founders Club of Ave Maria University; spiritual director for the faculty and students at Ave Maria University; Chaplain for the Naples Chapter of Legatus; and served on the Board of Directors of Priests for Life.
Father Cooney is survived by numerous family and friends.
Sister Christine Patrick, Sister of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods, former principal of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton, died on March 18, 2020, at St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 89 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 70 years.
Sister Christine Patrick was born Feb. 5, 1931 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Walter and Anna Scheidegger Patrick. She was baptized Eleanor Mae.
Sister Christine entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence on Feb. 2, 1950, and professed her final vows on Aug. 15, 1957. She earned a degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and an advanced degree from Indiana University.
In her 70 years as a Sister of Providence, Sister Christine ministered as a teacher and principal for 44 years in schools in Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., and Florida. Within the Diocese of Venice, she served as Principal of St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton from 1995-2004. Upon her retirement she volunteered for Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto and Sarasota, as well as serving at St. Joseph Parish as a minister for the homebound and volunteering with the senior outreach program.
Sister Christine is survived by a sister, and was preceded in death by two brothers and four sisters, two of whom were Sisters of Providence. A private Mass of Christian Burial was March 27 with burial in the cemetery of the Sisters of Providence in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
Msgr. Gerard “Gerry” Finegan was known to wear many hats – confessor, confidante, friend, mentor, competitor and much more – but for most people who knew him, he was a gentle giant with a nice Irish accent who was also their Parish priest.
Msgr. Finegan died on Feb. 3 surrounded by family and friends. He was 77. For those who knew the longtime Pastor of Incarnation Parish and Chaplain at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, and recently retired Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Parish in Longboat Key, his passing from this earth struck many very deeply.
Hundreds commented on social media in response to the announcement of his passing. Many shared their personal stories of Msgr. Finegan; of how he presided over the marriage, baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, or funeral of various family members through the years, noting the twinkle in his eye and genuine concern about their well-being, no matter what.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held Feb. 7 at Incarnation Parish, with Bishop Frank J. Dewane as the Main Celebrant and dozens of priests of the Diocese concelebrating, including Bishop Emeritus Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.
Father Eric Scanlan, Administrator of Incarnation Parish and former Parochial Vicar at St. Mary, Star of the Sea under Msgr. Finegan, was the homilist and shared his personal reflections on the man he viewed as friend and mentor. He noted that a priest is called not only to follow Jesus but to go beyond that; to be the one who stands in the person of Jesus Christ (in persona Christi).
“In losing a priest, we not only lost a man but the unique way he showed us God,” Father Scanlan said. “His priestly presence was Christ in our world, was Christ to each one of us; and no one will ever again show us Jesus Christ the way that (Msgr.) Gerry did. That is a real sadness and a real loss.”
Bishop Dewane spoke of the tremendous contribution Msgr. Finegan made to the Diocese through the years. He noted that he was not just assigned to Incarnation Parish, but in fact he was Incarnation Parish. Whether at Incarnation or St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Msgr. Finegan was passionate about his commitment to the people.
“He was a man of faith who had no trouble putting that out to show everybody,” Bishop Dewane said. “The loss to the Diocese is great, but it is also a loss to his family and his many friends. My prayers go with you as you return to Ireland.”
A native of Ireland, Msgr. Finegan was born Jan. 1, 1943, in Cavan, County Kildare, to Joseph and Mary Finegan. He attended St. Patrick College, Maynooth, Ireland. He was Ordained to the Priesthood on June 18, 1967 at St. Patrick’s and Felim’s Cathedral in Cavan for the Diocese of St. Augustine. Monsignor also served at Parishes in Safety Harbor, Largo and was Chaplain at Clearwater Catholic High School, before his 1972 assignment as Parochial Vicar of Incarnation and Chaplain at Cardinal Mooney in the then-young Diocese of St. Petersburg.
In 1976 he was elevated to Pastor of Incarnation and remained there until 2008 when he was named Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea on Longboat Key where he served until his retirement in November 2019. As announced from the Office of the Bishop on June 11, 2010, then-Pope Benedict XVI, bestowed Papal Honors on Father Finegan, along with four other Diocesan priests, in recognition of their dedication and exemplary service to the Church. This Papal Honor elevated him to the rank of Monsignor, as Chaplain to His Holiness. The group of priests was the first recipients of this honor in the history of the Diocese of Venice.
Passionate in his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Msgr. Finegan recited the Angelus at noon and 6 p.m. without fail, regardless of what he was doing. In his rare free time, he played multiple sports in his youth and later enjoyed racquetball, tennis, golf and playing cards. He also regularly returned to Ireland to visit family and friends.
Msgr. Finegan is survived by his sisters: Mary Tunney, Aine Connolly, Catherine O’Leary, Brigid Duffy, Josephine Finegan; six nephews; six nieces; 16 grand nephews, nine grand nieces, and countless friends. Please make memorial contributions in Msgr. Finegan’s name to Incarnation Catholic School. Burial will be in Ireland next to his parents.
Msgr. Anthony A. La Femina, a retired priest and iconographer who previously served as Administrator of St. Isabel Parish on Sanibel, died Dec. 30, 2019. He was 86.
Msgr. La Femina was born Nov. 19, 1933, in New Haven, Conn., and was one of three children of Anthony and Natalie (D’Amato) La Femina.
In his academic formation, Msgr. La Femina attended Providence College, Dominican Fathers, Seminaire de Philosophie and Grand Seminaire in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and Angelicum in Rome, Italy. He was ordained May 27, 1961 at the Cathedral of St. Jerome in Montreal, Canada. For the Diocese of Saint-Jérôme, in the Province of Quebec, Canada, Monsignor served in parishes in Rosemère, Deux-Montagnes, before serving on the Diocesan Tribunal, then as the Vice-Chancellor and later as Chancellor of the Diocese.
Msgr. La Femina was appointed as an official at the Congregation for Divine Worship of the Holy See in 1969 and served there for many years. He was incardinated in the Diocese of Venice, from the Diocese of Saint-Jérôme, in December 1986. He also served as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Within the Diocese of Venice, Msgr. La Femina assisted at several parishes and including in 1998 as Administrator of St. Isabel Parish in Sanibel. Prior to his retirement in 2008, Msgr. La Femina also served in the Diocese of Charleston as Director of the Office of Volunteers. Most recently, he was Chaplain to the Knights of Columbus Bishop Charles B. McLaughlin Assembly 1818 in Venice.
In addition to serving as a priest, Monsignor was a well-known iconographer. Images he created were most notably used worldwide during the 2000 Jubilee. He was also a scholarly author.
He is survived by numerous relatives. A funeral will take place at 10 a.m., Jan. 18, at Epiphany Cathedral, 310 Sarasota St., Venice. A viewing will take place starting at 8:30 a.m.
A former Fort Myers Pastor and a longtime priest assisting at a parish in Bradenton recently died.
Father Thomas E. Murphy, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, who served as Pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Fort Myers (1994-2001) and as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers (1990-1994), died Oct. 25, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pa. He was 71.
Father James H. Archambault, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford who had assisted at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton since 1997 until his health no longer allowed, died Oct. 21, 2019. He was 80.
Father Murphy was born in 1947 and professed his first vows with the Oblates in 1967, perpetual profession in 1970 and was ordained to the priesthood on May 15, 1976. He held degrees from Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales and from Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
Father Murphy served at schools in Philadelphia, Reading, Pa., and Alexandria, Va. as well as at parishes in Philadelphia and mostly recently in Cape May, N.J. Within the Diocese of Venice, Father Murphy was Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Light Parish when it was founded in 1990 and then was named as Pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in 1994 where served until 2001.
Preceded in death by his parents and one sister, Father Murphy is survived by two sisters, several nieces and nephews, grandnieces and nephews, and two great-grandnieces. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Oct. 28 in Rydal, Pa. and internment will be in the Oblate Cemetery in Childs, Md.
Father Archambault was born Dec. 23, 1938, in Waterbury, Conn., and studied at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Conn., as well as at St. Mary Seminary and St. Mary University in Baltimore, Md. He was ordained May 4, 1967 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hartford, Conn. Following ordination, Father Archambault served in the same state at Parishes in Bristol, Windsor Locks, Manchester, and New Britton, and chaplain at a hospital in Waterbury. Upon his retirement in 1987, he moved to Florida where he served as an assistant priest at St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton.
Predeceased by his parents and his brother, Father Archambault is survived by a sister-in-law, nieces, nephews and several grandnieces/nephews. A Mass of Christian Burial, celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and concelebrated by priests of the Diocese, took place Oct. 28 at St. Joseph Parish. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be sent to the St. Vincent de Paul Ministry at St. Joseph Parish, 3100 26th St. W., Bradenton, FL 34205.
Please pray for the repose of the souls of Fathers Murphy and Archambault and the consolation of their families.
Father Thomas J. Gillespie, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 68 years and former Parochial Vicar of St. Ann Parish in Naples, died July 27, 2019, at the Oblate community at Childs, Md. He was 87.
Father Gillespie was born Jan. 16, 1932, in Elkins Park, Pa., the son of Francis J. Gillespie and Catherine (McMaster) Gillespie. It was in 1950, when he entered the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and professed first vows at the end of his postulancy and novitiate on Sept. 13, 1951, followed by perpetual profession on Sept. 13, 1954, and ordination to the priesthood May 31, 1960. Father completed a B.A. in Mathematics at Niagara University and an M.A. in Guidance/Counseling at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.
Enjoying a rich and varied mix of assignments throughout his 59 years of priesthood, Father Gillespie tried his hand at a number of ministries, including 18 years in secondary education, in Wilmington, Del., and Harrisburg, Pa. He also served as spiritual director at the De Sales School of Theology, Postulant Director, Director of Novices and Religious Superior at both Brisson Seminary and the Salesianum Oblate community.
At the age of 64, Father Gillespie received permission to serve as a missionary in South Africa, historically the first overseas mission to which the Oblates first travelled in 1882. After more than a decade, Father returned to the United States in 2007 to retire. However, in 2008, Father came out of retirement to serve as a Parochial Vicar and later as Priest-in-Residence at St. Ann Parish in Naples, where he stayed until his final retirement in 2017 when he left to live at the Oblate community in Maryland.
A Mass of Christian Burial was held July 31 at Our Lady of Light Chapel, in Childs. Md. Internment followed in the Oblate Cemetery. Father is survived by his twin sisters, Mary Cormier and Van Gillespie.