Died 30 April 2016
Jesuit Father Herbert J. Cleary died on April 30, 2016. He was born on Feb. 18, 1931, in Melrose, Massachusetts, and grew up in the nearby town of Winchester. A younger brother, Richard, was born a year later.
His parents, Herbert and Teresa (Moore) Cleary, both worked at a variety of jobs in the depression years and afterwards. Fr. Cleary attended parish grade school and Winchester’s public high school. In 1948, he attended Bentley School of Accounting for two years. He secured a junior position in a Boston accounting firm and worked there until, in 1951, with the Korean War escalating and the prospect of being drafted, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy.
In 1955 Fr. Cleary left the Navy and enrolled in St. Philip Neri School in Boston. A year later, after applying to both the archdiocesan seminary in Boston and the Society, he entered the New York Province novitiate at Plattsburg, New York, in August 1956.
He took first vows in 1958 and, three months into his juniorate, moved with his New England classmates to the new Shadowbrook. He moved to Weston for philosophy studies (1960-1963). For regency he was assigned to Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, where he taught several subjects and especially enjoyed teaching the boys in a non-college general course. After two years he returned to Weston for theology studies. His mother had been diagnosed with cancer and he was ordained ahead of his classmates, in his home parish, in May 1968; she died on the day after his first public Mass. A year later, his father remarried and Fr. Cleary acquired a large and welcome step-family.
After ordination Fr. Cleary returned to Cheverus to teach English and assist in counseling students. Over the following year he completed the application process of returning to the Navy as a chaplain, but the training process didn’t provide the pastoral opportunities he expected and he returned to Cheverus, where he worked for two years as a student counselor, earning a master’s in that field at the University of Maine. In 1973-1974 he did tertianship at Eastern Point in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
He then spent three years in parish ministry in the diocese of Portland, trying out the idea of incardinating in that diocese. Ultimately, he and the bishop decided that he was a Jesuit at heart and he abandoned the idea. He worked for four years (1977-1981) as a school chaplain (at Canterbury School in Connecticut and St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana). Then he moved into hospital chaplaincy, first for a year at Mass General in Boston, and then for eight years at Bethany Hospital in Framingham, Massachusetts, interrupted by a sabbatical in Australia at the provincial’s urging and a renewal program in England. When he returned to the U.S., he undertook two more chaplaincy assignments in Catholic hospitals, in South Carolina and Manchester, New Hampshire.
In 1994 he became a chaplain at Marian Manor, a Catholic nursing home in South Boston. There he settled into a congenial routine and ministered happily for the next 17 years, supported by the resources he found at the Institute for the Living.
In 2011, health issues led to his being assigned to Campion Center, in Weston, Massachusetts. Fr. Cleary continued to serve as chaplain for a group of Massachusetts Korean War veterans and kept up his relationships with Navy friends, attending reunions of shipmates and writing about the experiences they shared in their years together.