Died 17 November 2014
Jesuit Father Gerard P. Bell died on Nov. 17, 2014, at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx, New York. Age 88, he was born on May 3, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of James and Julia (Toomey) Bell. He graduated from Mt. St. Michael School in the Bronx in 1944 and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, New York on April 26, 1944. Following his novitiate (1944-46) and Juniorate studies in Poughkeepsie, he studied philosophy at Woodstock College in Maryland from 1948-51.
Before beginning the study of theology at Woodstock, he taught Latin and English at Brooklyn Prep. The normal course of theology took place at Woodstock, from 1954-58. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 22, 1957, at the Fordham University Church by Bishop Joseph Pernicone. Thus he was a priest for 57 years (and a Jesuit for 70 years). His final year of Jesuit formation, Tertianship was completed at the Jesuit Martyrs Shrine, Auriesville, New York (1958-59).
Before beginning his many years of retreat ministry and sharing the Spiritual exercises, he served as Assistant to the Master of Novices at the Jesuit novitiate at Plattsburgh, New York from 1959-62. He was assigned to the Loyola House of Retreats, Morristown, New Jersey (1962-68), focusing on youth retreats. He served at Jesuit retreat houses in Staten Island and at Loyola-on-Potomac, and as a chaplain at Farleigh Dickinson University and Catholic University.
For many years, he lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, and was the director of the Insignis Foundation. This contemporary adaptation of the Spiritual Exercises ministry was founded by laity for laity, under his guidance and leadership. The Foundation enabled him to offer retreats, direct workshops, offer spiritual guidance, pastoral counseling, and also publish articles and essays on pastoral theology and ministry. He was a leader of the (Christian Life Community) in the Washington area, and also a promoter of the Apostleship of Prayer for the Archdiocese of Washington.
In an article he wrote in 1958 he says that “the Ignatian message of contemplative in action is eminently suited for the modern world. It remains for the sons of Ignatius to lead the way themselves, while teaching it to others.” This was at the heart of his lifetime ministry in adult spirituality, and his own priestly life.
In 2012, with failing health, he was assigned to Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary on the Fordham University campus in the Bronx, to pray for the Church and the Society. He died there on Nov. 17.