Monsignor John J. Gilchrist entered into eternal life on April 18, 2018 at The C.Y.O. Youth Center in Kearny. Visiting will be on Saturday from 2 until 6 p.m. at the Armitage Wiggins Funeral Home 596 Belgrove Kearny. Visiting again on Sunday from 2-5 p.m. in The Sacred Heart Chapel at the C.Y.O. Center in Kearny . Monsignor's remains will then be moved to St. Peters Church in Belleville. The church will open its doors at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening and a Vigil will be held at 7:30 p.m. The church will re-open on Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. and the Funeral Mass celebrated at 10:00 a.m. and burial will follow at St. Peter Cemetery.
Msgr. John Gilchrist was born the first of six children of Mary Irene and John Charles Gilchrist in 1929. He grew up in Nutley and Belleville and entered the seminary in 1951. Monsignor leaves behind his very dear friend in Christ, Sister Doris DeLotto, SSC. He was the devoted brother of William Gilchrist (the late Mary Lou), the late Joseph Gilchrist (the late Betty Ann), Thomas Gilchrist (Patricia), Irene Freitag (the late Robert) and Carol Volpe (Anthony). Also surviving are 31 loving nieces, nephews and their families.
Upon Ordination in 1957, Father Gilchrist spent several months in Saint Mark’s Parish in Rahway and was then sent to Saint Cecilia in Kearny where he served for 21 years.
Saint Cecilia’s was an active parish including a grade school and a high school in which the priests taught classes. They also serviced the local West Hudson Hospital. During his time at Saint Cecilia’s he began a Saturday morning program for young people with Down Syndrome. He also began writing a column for the Catholic Advocate Archdiocesan newspaper that continued until the paper was discontinued. It was during these years that Msgr. became involved with Local 68 of the Operating Engineers and it marked the beginnings of his associations with various other Unions within the State of New Jersey.
He spent two happy years at Saint Nicholas, Jersey City and was then appointed pastor in Our Lady of Fatima in North Bergen in 1980 where he continued for 13 years. As pastor he served for a time as Dean of North Hudson and as the Vicar for Pastoral Life in the Archdiocese of Newark for a number of years. During these years he was elevated to Reverend Monsignor and appointed as leader of the Commission for Jewish-Christian Affairs, a post he held for a number of years, and developed relationships within the Jewish community that lasted to the end.
His involvement with social issues began to increase as he was approached by tenants who faced eviction unjustly. He was able to work with others to develop a tenant advocacy group in Hudson County as a result and their accomplishments were many. That also led to successful struggles for affordable housing opportunities for people afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
In 1993 Msgr. was appointed as Pastor in Holy Cross, Harrison. His work within the Archdiocese continued as did his involvement in the social issues. The work with the Labor Unions became even stronger. His efforts went into maintaining and supporting the Grammar School. He was successful in that endeavor while he was there. At the end of his term at Holy Cross the parish shared with him the joyful celebration of his fiftieth anniversary of priesthood.
In announcing the passing of Msgr. Gilchrist, one of the Union leaders wrote this to all of his members” Over the years, Msgr. Gilchrist’s words and prayers have resonated from picket lines to Union meetings all across the State. With soft-spoken poise and a beaming optimism, the weight of his words have empowered, guided, and united generations of working families.”
Through all of these years his consistently strong affection remained with his work with the Labor Unions. The International Union of Operating Engineers was first but then followed the Building and Construction Trades, The Food and Commercial Workers, The Teamsters, The AFL-CIO, and others. They found a true friend and advocate in Msgr. Gilchrist and he found a multitude of true friends in the men and women of Labor.
In lieu of flowers kindly consider a donation to C.Y.O. Youth Ministries 499 Belgrove Drive Kearny, N.J. 07032.