Father Thomas J. Gillespie, OSFS, professed member of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales for 68 years, died on July 27, 2019.
Father was born in Elkins Park, PA, on January 16, 1932, the son of Francis J. Gillespie and Catherine (McMaster) Gillespie. After attending St. James Elementary School and graduating from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1950, he entered the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. He professed first vows at the end of his postulancy and novitiate on September 13, 1951, followed by perpetual profession on September 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, DC.
Enjoying a rich and varied mix of assignments throughout his 59 years of priesthood, he tried his hand at a number of ministries. Throughout his 18 years in secondary education, Fr. Gillespie worked at Northeast Catholic and Father Judge in Philadelphia, Salesianum School in Wilmington, DE and Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, PA. Regarding internal ministry, Fr. Gillespie 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, Fr. Gillespie received permission to serve as a missionary in South Africa, historically the first overseas mission to which the Oblates first travelled in 1882. Fr. Gillespie spent over a decade in South Africa before returning to the United States in 2007 to begin enjoying a well-earned retirement. A year later, Fr. Gillespie came out of retirement to serve as both a parochial vicar and priest-in-residence at St. Ann parish in Naples, Florida. In the summer of 2017 at the age of 85, Fr. Gillespie retired – this time, for good – at the Oblate community at Childs, Maryland.
Father is survived by his twin sisters, Mary Cormier and Van Gillespie.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on July 31 at Our Lady of Light Chapel, 1120 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, MD, where visitation will begin at 12:30 p.m. Interment will follow in the Oblate Cemetery.
In memory of Fr. Gillespie’s life and legacy, donations may be made to the Oblate Development Fund, 2200 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Del., 19806.