Jesuit Father Paul Gilmartin was born, on March 21, 1932, in Worcester, Mass., the younger of the two boys of Francis and Margaret (McNiff) Gilmartin. He grew up in Worcester and attended local schools there. In 1949, he graduated from high school and entered the Shadowbook novitiate.
From 1953 to 1956, he did philosophy studies at Weston College. His regency (1956-1959) was spent at St. George’s College in Kingston, Jamaica, teaching biology and hygiene to first-year students. When it became time for theology studies concerns about his health led superiors to send him to Alma College, the theologate for the California and Oregon provinces, located in Los Gatos, a small town in the wine country between San Jose and coastal Santa Cruz. He was ordained a priest at Weston, on June 16, 1962.
Theology studies completed, he spent a year as the secretary of the New England Provincial so that his good friend, Fr. Jim Woods, SJ, could leave that job and go to the New England tertianship. A year later they switched places again, so Father Gilmartin could go to tertianship and Jim return to the province office.
Finally, free from the obligations of the Jesuit course of studies, he could devote his energies to topics close to his heart. At Catholic University, in Washington, D.C., he spent two years doing graduate studies in spirituality and ascetical theology, subjects which would later turn out to be the focus of most of his Jesuit ministry.
For the next decade he taught theology and religion at Boston College (1967-1971) and Boston College High School (1971-1972). He then spent three years as assistant pastor in Lowell, Massachusetts (1972-1975), while writing his doctoral dissertation for Catholic University.
In 1975, the different strands of Paul’s studies and ministries came together when he accepted an invitation from Cardinal Humberto Medeiros to join the faculty of Pope Saint John the XXIII National Seminary, a mile or two from the Jesuit house of studies where he had first encountered philosophy two decades earlier. For the next 25 years he taught theology, but his true métier was as a spiritual director of generations of older seminarians who valued not only his understanding of the spiritual life but also of how this spirituality unfolds amid the challenges of the daily life of priestly ministry.
In 2000, he had a debilitating stroke, undetected for hours, which left him unable to connect to the world around him. He died, at Campion Center, in the early morning of February 4, 2019.