(1915 2006), Westport and Dublin
By an t-Ath. Micheal MacGreil, S.J.
Courtesy of The Mayo News
The sad and peaceful death of the late Fr Joe Gill, SJ, took place in the afternoon of June 22, 2006, in the Jesuit Nursing Home, Cherryfield Lodge, Ranelagh, Dublin. His passing marked the end of an era, having served 72 years in the Society of Jesus. Ar dheis De go raibh a anam uasal.
Joseph Mary Gill was born to the late Dr Anthony and Mary (nee Mulloy) Gill of Westport on February 3, 1915. He got his early education in the Mercy Convent and the Christian Brothers' Schools in Westport and in Clongowes Wood College, near Clane in County Kildare.
At the age of 19 years, Joe entered the Jesuit Noviceship at Emo Park (near Portarlington) in 1934, and took his first vows as a Jesuit in 1936. During the following ten years (1936-1946) he completed his third-level studies in Arts (at UCD, 1936-1939), in Philosophy (at Tullabeg, County Offaly 1939-1942) and in Theology (at Milltown Park, Dublin 1942-1946). He was ordained a priest at Milltown Park on July 31, 1945.
Following a third spiritual year (Tertianship, 1946-1947), he taught for a year in the Crescent Secondary School for boys in Limerick. Fr Joe took his final vows as a Jesuit on February 2, 1948.
In 1948, Fr Gill was chosen to become one of the 'founding fathers' of the Irish Jesuit Mission to Zambia in Africa (then known as Northern Rhodesia). During his eight years he worked tirelessly as pastor, builder, teacher and administrator in St Ignatius Church, Lusaka, in St Peter Canisius College, Chicuni, and in mission outstations in Kasiya, Civuna and Fumbo.
On his return to Ireland in 1956, Fr Joe was made Minister (administrator) of the recently-founded Catholic Workers' College in Ranelagh (later to be known as the National College of Industrial Relations and today renamed as the National College of Ireland).
It was in 1958, however, that Father Gill was given his major appointment to the pastoral, spiritual and administrative care of souls in St Francis Xavier's Church, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin. This was to be his spiritual vineyard for the next 48 years. For the first 44 years of his time in Gardiner Street, Father Joe achieved an extraordinary grace as pastor and spiritual counselor. He spent hours upon hours hearing confessions and trying to bring peace of mind to a wider range of penitents from the ranks of clergy, religious and laity.
He was always available as long as his health enabled him. In addition to the onerous tasks of the confessional and the parlour, Father Joe encouraged an extraordinary collectivity of devout souls in the Sodality of Our Lady and Saint Patrick and the Association of Perpetual Adoration. He became spiritual director of both groups in 1989. Every year his dedicated friends would make a wonderfully colourful variety of vestments for Churches in Ireland and in the Mission fields. Father Joe was extremely proud of the creative work of his team.
Following an accidental fall in 2002, which resulted in a hip replacement (in Merlin Park Hospital, Galway), Father Joe's health began to fail somewhat. This extraordinary pastor kept up his role as spiritual counselor in the Jesuit Nursing Home until all his energy had faded away. His passing marked the completion of a very full life as a priest and as a kind friend.
Fr Joe will be sadly missed by his Jesuit brothers and members of his family. Although living and working away from Westport, Father Joe Gill kept constant contact with the parish of his birth and early rearing. He is survived by his sister, Moya Gill, Westport; his nieces Marlene Lavelle (Achill), Brenda Furnace (Dublin), Janice Gill (England) and by his nephews, Joe, James, Peter and Vincent McGovern (Westport, Galway and Naas), John and Paul Gill (Dublin), Anthony, James, John and Joseph Gill (England).
Father Joe was predeceased by his twin sister, Ella McGovern, and his brothers, Dr Anthony, Lt Col Gerrard (Engineer Corps) and Xavier (Xavie) Gill. His removal and funeral Mass were celebrated in St Francis Xavier Church, where he ministered for so long.
The final tribute to Father Joe was given by the Jesuit Superior of St Francis Xavier's Community, Father Derek Cassidy, SJ, during his sermon at the funeral Mass. There was a very large and representative attendance at Joe's funeral Mass, including members of his extended family from Ireland and abroad. The Irish Jesuit Provincial, Father John Dardis, SJ, and the former Jesuit Provincial of Zambia, Father Paul Brassil, SJ, concelebrated the Mass with scores of other priest colleagues of Father Joe's. A substantial representation of Jesuit Brothers, and Sisters and Brothers of other congregations also took part. It was very fitting that so many friends travelled from west Mayo to make their prayer of farewell to 'one of their own', whose great love was boating on Clew Bay. Sagart dilis, muinteartha, carthanach a bhi ann. Rinne se a dhicheall ar son an tsoisceil bheo. I bhfochair De go raibh se.
- Micheal MacGreil, SJ