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Father Joseph Gillis

Father Joseph Gillis

It is with great sadness we announce the passing of our beloved brother Father Joseph Gillis, age 87, on Tuesday, January 30th, 2018, at the Northside General Hospital.  Fr. Joe passed away peacefully surrounded by love, after a courageous and lengthy illness.   Born in North Sydney on April 24, 1930, Martin Joseph was the son of the late Martin W. and Nora (Hart) Gillis.

Fr. Joe graduated from St. FX University in 1951, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He entered the Grand Seminary in Montreal the same year and completed his studies over the next four years. In 1955 he was ordained to the Priesthood with the Diocese of Antigonish.   His first appointment was to St. F.X. University as a member of the faculty, where he would continue studying to prepare to teach Mathematics and in 1962, earned his Masters degree in Mathematics. His teaching career at St. F.X. would span 22 years. In 1977, Fr. Joe opted to leave teaching to pursue his vocation as a parish priest.

He served as a parish priest for the next 37 years at the following parishes within the Diocese of Antigonish: Lady of Lourdes, Stellarton from 1977 – 1988, St. Joseph, Bras d’Or, St. Ann, Alder Point, St. Joachim, Boularderie, from 1988 – 1999, St. Mary, Big Pond and Sacred Heart in Johnstown, from 1999 – 2014, retiring due to illness.  Fr. Joe made many friends in all the parishes he served and was loved by all who knew him.   F. Joe believed his life as a priest was entirely fulfilled by his work in parish life and that it helped him to realize his vocation.

Fr. Joe had a love of music, especially the fiddle. He took instruction in violin from the late Professor Jim MacDonald, beginning at age ten and continued until he was eighteen. He was often spotted playing at parish functions and fund raisers and was a member of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association. He even played in a band during his time in Big Pond up until the time of his illness.  He enjoyed using his music as a way of getting to know his parishioners on a more personal level.

Fr. Joe is survived by his siblings Rosaire (John) Young, North Sydney, Regina (Urs) Schweizer, Brooks, Alberta, Bernadette MacDougall, Florence Gillis, both of Antigonish, Barry (Cammie) Gillis, Ron (Anita) Gillis, both of North Sydney, his many nieces and nephews whom he loved dearly.   Besides his parents Martin and Nora, he was predeceased by his sisters Ann Regina, Mary Gillis and Wilma (Lloyd) Balah, his brothers-in-law Charlie MacDougall, Leroy MacDonald and Alan Gillis.

Visitation for Fr. Joe will be held from 7-9 pm on Thursday and 2-4 pm Friday in the W.J. Dooley Funeral Home, 107 Pleasant Street, North Sydney and then afterwards the body was moved to St. Joseph Church, Archibald Avenue, North Sydney for a vigil at 7:30 pm.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:00 a.m. Saturday,  3rd February 2018, at St. Joseph Church with Bishop Brian Dunn officiating and priests of the Antigonish Diocese concelebrating.