Campus & Community

Harvard memorial service scheduled for James J. Gill

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A memorial service celebrating the life and work of former Harvard psychiatrist, James J. Gill, S.J., M.D., will be held at noon on June 23 in the Memorial Church.Some called him “Father Gill” or  “Dr. Gill,” but he was  “Jim” to many others. He held an appointment at the University Health Services (UHS) from 1969 to 1994. Following the completion of his training, Gill stayed on at the UHS as a staff psychiatrist for a decade, and as a consultant afterward.  In addition to his clinical work with members of the Harvard Community, he began to reach out to others in need beyond Harvard. And, in the words of a colleague, “Jim took Harvard with him wherever he traveled.”Along with his colleague of four decades, Linda Amadeo, Gill founded in 1979 the Jesuit Education Center for Human Development, which published the journal Human Development. This periodical seeks to help priests cope with the stresses in their lives by blending insights from medicine, art, theology, and the social sciences.Interdisciplinary activities always attracted him. Gill was equally at home being a physician to the soul as well as the body, a psychiatrist to the spirit along with the psyche. His work also reached across national boundaries. Gill was called to Rome to help train new provincial bishops from around the world. He ran workshops on every continent, educating clergy and laypersons alike about human development, sexuality, stress management, and developing one’s full potential.Gill was well aware of the potential for sexual confusion and dysfunction among religious workers and priests. For over a decade he treated clergy with sexual problems. In 1994 he opened the Christian Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality in Boston. Religious people from the United States and abroad came to study with him in order to demystify and understand human sexuality in ways that would help them in their lives and in their ministries. While Gill’s work stretched across many disciplines, no doubt ever existed as to his primary vocation. He used to tell the story on himself that when he was about to graduate from college, he was undecided about his future work. He held an acceptance to medical school in one hand and an acceptance to the Jesuits in the other. Consulting a priest about his vocational dilemma, Gill reported that the man simply said to him, “Well, picture yourself on your deathbed, telling God why you made your choice.” So, in 1947 he entered training for the Society of Jesus.  But he didn’t give up on medicine. Fifteen years later he received his M.D.