FAIRHAVEN, Mass. — Father Gabriel (William) Healy, SS.CC., an ordained member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary-United States Province, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Dec. 19, 2015, in his home at Damien Residence in Fairhaven.
Father Gabriel, who celebrated his 86th birthday on July 18, was born to William and Helen (Mahoney) Healy in Dorchester in 1929. One of a family of four children, he is survived by his sister Diane and his brother Richard as well as several nieces and nephews. He was pre-deceased by his sister Regina and a brother Edward.
Father Gabriel has been a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts for more than 60 years, having entered the novitiate in Fairhaven in 1951 at the age of 22. He professed his first vows on Sept. 14, 1952 and was ordained to the priesthood on June 1, 1957 in Jaffrey, N.H.
He began his ministry as a teacher at Bishop Amat High School and Pomona Boys High School in California, but returned to Fairhaven in 1960 to assume the role of vocation director for the province. From 1963 to 1972 he was assistant novitiate director and novice master at the Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham, before being named provincial treasurer, a position he held for 11 years.
During that same period, Father Gabriel served as pastor at St. Anthony’s Parish in Mattapoisett until 1984 when he became the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in West Harwich. He remained there until 1991 when the province asked him to become its director of Development, a job which he truly loved because it put him in touch with so many people who wanted to help make a difference.
It was during his time in West Harwich that Father Gabriel also became more involved in serving the poor through his association with the Cape Cod Food Pantry, started by members of Holy Trinity Parish. And so it was in 1991, while living at the Sacred Hearts Retreat Center in Wareham and holding down the position as Development director, that he and Father Tom McElroy, SS.CC., founded the Family Pantry-Damien’s Place as an outreach of the Retreat Center. Now almost 25 years later, and always under the watchful eyes of Father Gabriel, Damien’s Pantry feeds more than 2,500 people every month from Wareham and surrounding communities.
In 2004 when health issues forced him to retire from full-time ministry, Father Gabriel still did not stop. He served as mission animator for the province, helping to spread the word of the SS.CC. missions to other parishes; he assisted at Sacred Hearts Retreat Center as well as at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Acushnet, and St. Joseph’s Parish in Fairhaven. He also served two terms on the Provincial Council and in 2009 was named “Man of the Year” in Wareham by the New Bedford Standard-Times for his continued affiliation with Damien’s Food Pantry.
A Funeral Mass was celebrated for Father Gabriel at St. Joseph’s Church in Fairhaven, December 23 followed by burial in the Sacred Hearts Community Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the Sacred Hearts Community Damien Residence in Fairhaven, or to The Family Pantry-Damien’s Place in Wareham.