“I will always welcome joyfully any opportunity that comes my way to be of service to you.”
—Saint Vincent de Paul
On the recent Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul, I highlighted the early life and vocation story of Father Greg Gay, CM, 1971 graduate of The John Carroll School. Father Greg has served as the Vincentian Superior General since 2004. His Congregation of the Mission has over 4000 priests and brothers serving worldwide in 86 countries. He also serves the Daughters of Charity.
Read Part 1 here.
Today is Father Greg’s birthday:
Sending lots of good wishes for a very Happy Birthday and another great year filled with blessings from all of us here at John Carroll!!
Our welcome sign last week could have been personally designed for what Father Greg and his Congregation do everyday!!
Today I will share more reflections on Father Greg’s work by family and friends in honor of his noteworthy birthday.
Service to His Hometown Parish and Schools:
Over the years, Father Greg has always been most generous with his time to the communities of his youth. He has visited John Carroll and spoken to Religion classes a number of times, sharing with them his stories of service to the poor in the missions.
I remember one visit when I sent a student to get some water for Father Greg who had been speaking to small groups for two hours without a break. She returned with a water bottle. Father Greg responded by telling the students about how we take water for granted here in the United States, even spending money to buy bottled water when our tap water is perfectly potable. He explained about the ongoing health crisis from the lack of clean water-availability in many impoverished nations. I often think of this when I pick up a water bottle.
Parish and School Anniversaries:
Six months ago Father Greg led the annual Mission for his family parish, Saint Stephen Church in Bradshaw, on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary. It was held over the Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. At that same time Catholics around the world were celebrating the election of Pope Francis, the first Holy Father from the Americas!! It was a time of great joy for Father Greg and the parishioners from the parish of his childhood to be together for these two wonderful celebrations for the parish and for the Church.
At that time I was focused on the planning for the 50th Anniversary Year here at John Carroll. I spoke to Father Greg before he left in April for a visitation in Bolivia. He promised that he would visit John Carroll next May (2014) to lead a School Mission for our Golden Jubilee. Imagine my delight when his sister called me four days before our Anniversary Mass (on September 9 at John Carroll) to let me know that her brother was here in town and would like to join us. It was an honor and a privilege to have him concelebrating our Mass of the Holy Spirit on that special day. (Read about John Carroll’s 50th Anniversary Celebration here.)
Before the 50th Anniversary Mass at John Carroll:
The Very Rev. G. Gregory Gay, CM (third from right) gathers with some of the clergy before the Mass of the Holy Spirit for his Alma Mater’s 50th Anniversary: From left: Seminarian Josh Laws (also from home parish of St. Stephen Church), Deacon Victor Petrosino, Rev. Alphonse G. Rose, Bishop William Newman, and (on right) Msgr. William Burke, and principal celebrant Rev. Stephen R. Sutton.
Role Model and Hero:
Seminarian Josh Laws (pictured above at left), told me recently, “Greg Gay is probably one of my biggest heroes.” A graduate of Loyola Blakefield and Loyola University Maryland, Josh served on the John Carroll faculty teaching Religion for two years while discerning his vocation to the priesthood. Also a lifelong parishioner at Saint Stephen Church in Bradshaw, where his Dad serves as a deacon, Josh shared that Father Greg has always been “a friend and a hero for my family” with stories from his years serving in Panama frequently shared at the dinner table. Josh attended Saint Stephen School from kindergarten through 8th grade with Father Greg’s niece, Colleen O’Brien Everson (John Carroll Class of 2003). Colleen’s Mom (Father Greg’s sister), Patty Gay O’Brien (John Carroll Class of 1977), was Josh’s second grade teacher.
Josh shared that as he got older and “the dream of becoming a priest became more and more real, Father Greg became a sort of role model and friend.” This has been particularly true over the past few years while Josh was studying in Rome at the North American College and had a number of opportunities to get together with Father Greg and his confreres.
Father Greg has had a huge impact on his life, Josh told me, especially since he entered the seminary. He shared that “the biggest influence that Greg has had on my life is his constant attention and concern for the poor. One way of expressing this unwavering love-in-action for the poor that Greg has shared with me is the desire to be ‘Good News for the Poor.’ That expression or slogan has had such an impact on me, and I often use it as my measure when making decisions– asking ‘will this allow me to be Good News for the Poor?’ Knowing Greg and having the awesome opportunity of him sharing in my seminary formation has helped to convict me of my own calling to be a Christian and to be a priest who spends himself and delights in living with and serving the poor, hopefully being Good News in the midst of sharing in their tiring struggles.”
Father Greg and Seminarian Josh Laws shared some stories with Rodney Johnson’s Social Studies class before the 50th Anniversary Mass at John Carroll on September 9, 2013
Josh is now serving his pastoral year at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Ellicott City. He expressed his gratitude for being able to share faith journeys with Father Greg over the past three years when he was in Rome: “always talking about family, Saint Stephen’s, and the ways we can, as two men and as a Church, do more for the poor and the oppressed.”
This past Christmas Josh was invited by Father Greg to join his confreres at the Vincentian Headquarters in Rome where they welcomed about 30 guests for a Christmas morning feast from a nearby home for the elderly. Josh recalls: “What impressed me most was the joy shared as guests and hosts sat down to enjoy the day—eating, drinking, and laughing together as a family. Being away from home for the third-straight Christmas, this was the best gift I could have imagined. And it was probably the best way for me to enter into what Christmas is all about.”
Josh also shared memories of meeting Father Greg for dinner after one of the sessions of the Synod for the New Evangelization last October. He shared of their dynamic conversation as Father Greg told him “about the many bishops and cardinals who stood up and gave a voice for the poor, speaking on their behalf and urging these church leaders to consider the poor and those who do not enjoy the advantages of education, health care, safety, and housing. It was great to share in the excitement as the entire Church sought to be energized by the Spirit and sent out on mission.”
Meet Father Greg’s “Little Brother”
Deacon Timothy Maloney, the Director of Faith Formation at Saint Joseph Church, Fullerton, and deacon at his home parish of Saint Stephen, Bradshaw, has known the Gay Family all his life. Father Greg’s Mom started babysitting Tim when he was six months old. He told me, “I was at the house so much that Jeanne and George (Father Greg’s parents), as well as all of their children, pretty much considered me the 11th sibling.” Father Greg has been known to introduce Tim as his “little brother.”
Tim shared, “Greg and his family have been a huge part of my life. I would not be who I am today if it was not for the Gay Family.” He acknowledges the great influence by Father Greg on his decision to become a deacon. “I grew up knowing that Greg was a seminarian and then later a priest. I always thought it was fascinating that he gave his whole life to the Church. I knew that being a missionary was not an easy job! As I discerned my calling to the diaconate, and later while in formation, Greg was always an email or phone call away. And now that I am a deacon, and have to balance family, job, and Church, he is always there to offer a word of advice or encouragement.”
First Mass as a Deacon on May 24, 2009:
Deacon Tim Maloney and celebrant Father Greg Gay, CM at Saint Stephen Church, Bradshaw
Tim’s best memory of Father Greg is from his ordination day when Father Greg vested him as a deacon. Tim recalls, “Greg left an international meeting of the Daughters of Charity in Paris to fly home to be at my ordination. He was also the celebrant at my first Mass as a Deacon the next morning at Saint Stephen’s—which was also his anniversary to the priesthood. He flew back to Paris after the Mass. I will never forget it!”
Celebrating Tim’s Ordination with the Maloney and Gay Families: May 23, 2009
(Father Greg and Deacon Tim are standing in the middle behind the babies)
Reflections by Niece Sarah Dobson:
Father Greg’s niece Sarah Dobson is currently a John Carroll junior. Sarah has travelled several times with her family to visit her Uncle Greg at various locations, including Puerto Rico in 2011 and this past summer in Italy. She recently shared with me that she loves how her uncle interacts with people, and how he never judges anyone.
Sarah said her Uncle Greg has always wanted to live where he feels he can help the most, and she admires how he has dedicated his entire life to serving the needs of the poor. She is proud of how people look up to him, and are also happy to meet her and all his family members. “On the other hand, he’s just my uncle too. He’s a normal person who has fun with us and laughs with us, and carries on the best conversations. That’s my favorite part, talking with him, and especially listening to his stories about his experiences. I’m so proud of him.”
Sarah enjoyed her time in Puerto Rico in 2011 both visiting her uncle’s missions as well as enjoying the beauty of the Caribbean.
Sarah told me that the family trip to Italy this past summer was the best trip of her life. She and her cousins had never been to Europe before. They toured a number of cities with their Uncle Greg who joined them for a week. She was fascinated by his ability to switch back and forth between Italian and English and Spanish. She shared that he celebrated Mass each morning for the local Daughters in Italian. A highlight that week for Sarah was visiting the Daughters’ home at the Vatican next to the Casa Santa Marta where the Holy Father lives.
Puerto Rico in February, 2011: Father Greg (third from right) visits his confreres with his sister Michele’s family: Michele’s husband Scott Dobson (in center) with son Adam (then in grade 5 at Saint Stephen School) and daughter Sarah (then in grade 8).
Part 3 on Friday:
I will wrap up this blog-series this Friday, October 11 as I focus on Father Greg’s style of servant-leadership, interactions with three Holy Fathers, his role at the Synod for the New Evangelization, and what he has to say about vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Looking forward to sharing more with you: Have a blessed week!!
With ever more gratitude to:
• Father Greg’s family for their assistance, reflections, and the sharing of family photographs: Michele Gay Dobson, Sarah Jeanne Dobson, Patty Gay O’Brien, Joan Gay Law,
• Deacon Timothy Maloney;
• Seminarian Josh Laws;
• The Vincentian bloggers and webmasters for their input and assistance:
• With special thanks to Father John Freund, CM.