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Monk influenced by Franciscans, Benedictines

Decades of teaching and pastoral ministry bring many fond memories and friends to Father Victor Gillespie, OSB, on his 50th anniversary of ordination. Forced by illness to retire in 2005, he remembers difficult times with no regrets and treasures his life in community.

Published: September 2, 2006   
Father Victor Gillespie, OSB

SUBIACO -- "Two religious who greatly influenced my vocation," Father Victor Gillespie said, "were Brother Cyprian Hill, CFP, of Morris School and Father Christopher Paladino, OSB, of Subiaco Academy."

Born March 5, 1928, in Atkins, Anthony Gillespie received his secondary education at Morris School and graduated from Subiaco Academy in 1945.

He joined the United States Air Force in 1946 and was stationed in Japan as a photo lab technician.

Returning to Subiaco in 1950, he professed his vows as a monk on Sept. 14, 1951, receiving the name Victor. On May 26, 1956, he was one of seven monks of the abbey ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Albert L. Fletcher at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.

Father Gillespie spent 24 years on the faculty of Subiaco Academy and one semester at Laneri High School in Fort Worth, Texas, teaching mathematics and physics during the late 1950s to the early 1980s. He also served as chairman of the Science Department and was a professional photographer/developer of thousands of photographs that he took for academy yearbooks and other publications through the years.

"That was pretty rough work," said Father Gillespie. "Sometimes it meant taking 1,500 pictures in six months and spending a few hours each night in the darkroom developing them."

High standards of scholarship expected in his classroom were tempered with his friendly and jovial personality. Students knew they had an emphatic mentor in Father Gillespie.

Receiving his first permanent pastoral assignment in 1982, Father Gillespie was appointed assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Muenster, Texas. Seven years later, he was named pastor. At the time, this was the largest parish staffed by the Benedictines of Subiaco Abbey.

Recalled to Arkansas in 1994, Father Gillespie was appointed pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Clarksville, where he served until 1999. His next appointment was at St. Benedict Parish in Subiaco, where stayed until Dec. 10, 2005.

Because of periodic absences from the parish for convalescence following chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer, Father Gillespie felt it would be in the best interest of his parishioners if he resigned from pastoral ministry at the end of 2005.

"As you might guess," he told the congregation last December, "this was a very difficult decision for me. The six and one-half years that I have been your pastor have, on the whole, been happy years for me, for which I am most grateful to you. I ask you to continue to pray for me."

Today Father Gillespie lives in the monastic health center.

The high esteem his former students and parishioners have for him is evident by the many visitors who come to chat with Father Gillespie at the abbey.

"I have never regretted making my religious vows," he said. "Sometimes religious life is difficult, but there are always friends and classmates to support you and share your burdens. There is nothing quite like community living."

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