The Very Reverend John L. Gillespie
Eleventh Pastor of St. Mary
2002 – 2006
Fr. John Gillespie was born on December 5, 1943 in Philadelphia to Francis and Sarah. His father worked in a shipping department, and his mother was a nurse. Fr. John is one of six children.
Growing up in Philadelphia, John attended Catholic schools. He did his college at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and his theology at Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, NY. Fr. John holds three master’s degrees: education, psychology, and divinity. He was ordained a deacon on May 11, 1990 in Camden, NJ and served in the inner city of Camden for his diaconate experience. He was ordained a priest at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church in Raleigh by Bishop Gossman on October 21, 1995.
Fr. John’s first assignment was as a Parochial Vicar at St. Thomas More Parish in Chapel Hill. Following that, he served as Pastor of Holy Family Parish in Elizabeth City.
Fr. John came to St. Mary Parish on July 11, 2002 as Pastor. He was immediately faced with many financial problems of the parish and low morale. His greatest challenge, from his perspective, was to keep St. Mary School open, boost the morale of the congregation, and begin putting the parish on a solid financial footing.
Fr. John will probably be most remembered for “healing the wounds” of the parish, serving as a peacemaker. Because of his clarity of vision and low-key approach to administration, he was very successful in calming the waters. He says that his greatest joy as the St. Mary Pastor was participating in the rejuvenation of the parish.
Fr. John sees his greatest pastoral accomplishment that of getting St. Mary Church to be named a shrine, the only shrine in the Diocese of Raleigh.
Fr. John loves the outdoors and biking.
Following his pastorate, Fr. John became Pastor of the Newman Catholic Student Center & Parish in Chapel Hill and, later, the Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lumberton.