1913 – 2000 (July 12)
Joseph Gildea was born on July 26, 1913, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, one of six children of James E. Gildea and Mary J. Fitzgerald. He attended Saint Patrick's Parochial School in Lawrence and Lawrence High School. He entered the minor seminary of the Order in 1930, and on September 12, 1931, was received into the novitiate. He professed first vows on September 13, 1932, and solemn vows three years later. After graduation from Villanova College in 1936 with a B.A. in philosophy, he pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, DC, where he was ordained a priest on May 30, 1939. In June 1940 he completed a M.A. degree in Romance Languages from the Catholic University of America. Father Gildea's first assignment was to Saint Matthew Parish, Flint, MI, in 1940. After three months there he was assigned as an instructor to Villanova College. For the next six years, while teaching at Villanova, he pursued a doctorate in French at the University of Pennsylvania which he completed in 1946. In 1947 Father was assigned to North Andover, MA, as one of the pioneers in the founding of Merrimack College. As professor, dean, and vice president of that emerging institution, he put the college on a solid academic beginning. In 1959, he was assigned to Villanova as vice president for Academic Affairs. A meticulous, tireless, and gifted administrator, he spent himself at Villanova as he did at Merrimack. In 1948 he received the licentiate in sacred theology from the Order, and in 1960, an honorary L.L.D. from Merrimack College. In 1964 he became a research professor at Villanova University. Father Gildea died at Saint Thomas Monastery, Villanova, on July 12, 2000.
Father Gildea, who was always held in highest regard by his peers, possessed a rare combination of intellect, empathy, and commitment. He was very prominent in the academic world as an educator, writer, linguist, and researcher. An expert in the translation of medieval French manuscripts, Father Gildea had among his editorial contributions his works on Durmart le Galois; Partonopeu de Blois, a French romance of the twelfth century; L'Hystore Job; Remediarium Conversorum, and Source Book of Self-Discipline, a synthesis in Latin of Moralia in Job by Gregory the Great. Outside of the academic world Father was noted as a formidable preacher. Toward people in need he always showed care and concern. In conversations he always had the bon mot.