Letters to the Editor: September 27, 2016

TOM HILL writes,

Hello Jaspers,

I wanted to thank everyone who has shared in Father Hill’s life and his mission at Manhattan College. It is important to understand that his work is now our own, quietly helping to shape the world one person, one idea at a time.

I thought I would share for a few minutes the person I knew George Harry Hill to be (Harry was his grandfather). Like pairing two bare wires and opposite currents together, George had always tried to create light where there appeared to be none. He lived his calling everyday of his life. He challenged us all to be someone’s mentor, confessor, friend, ally and priest. Priest wasn’t his only title, though he lived that life to the fullest. George was human, and he shared his experience with anyone needing him along the way. To me, that defined his Christianity. And, that is now the mission all of us must follow too.

When I took a serious look at the potentials of a religious life both at Saint Bernard’s Seminary up in Rochester, NY and at the Xaverian Brothers Seminary in Danvers, Mass, he gave me the encouragement but also the room to make a clear choice. It wasn’t the outcome he had anticipated, but it was the correct one for me and he respected that.

George loved Manhattan College, every one of the students he encountered like no other mission that he had experienced his lifetime. There was one most telling point to all his quiet work at Manhattan of lasting impact to me. Of all the people he had a successful effect upon … the biggest regret in his life was that he was swallowed in sorrow that he had “lost” a single student that he had counseled. Igeorge never shared with me what he considered “lost”. That devastated him. Over approximately nine years of direct intervention, to hear him speak about what he considered his one truly personal loss broke my heart at the time. Everyone mattered to George.

Wish I could have been there on Friday the 16th to experience the ‘story board’ that so many contributed to in the Quad. The board traveled to Worcester for George’s wake and funeral mass, was noticed by hundreds who attended. You joined them as our family on George’s mission by your written thoughts.

I’ve heard many, many stories myself from not only my sons and my niece who have attended the college (Patrick is still part of the Manhattan student body), but many from the students I have intersected with by chance or through George. It was the counsel that “Father Hill” had given them to overcome a mistake, or a very personal disaster, or advice to help attain a goal … he relished every day at Manhattan. It is apparent this was his life’s work. And yes, the ‘noise’ of the dorms was prevalent each day he lived in Horan Hall the past few years, but he wouldn’t have changed a bit of it for anything. After all, we all have to complain about something! Like so many others, I can still see George sitting at his post in Lockes each lunchtime, allowing others access without baggage to run ideas and ask questions … to bring them friendship and support.

He was also proud of the work of his peers surrounding him at the college. He told me more than once that the mission is fulfilled everyday on the campus by teachers and administrators like no other mission he had been a part of over his life. I know he allied with some, worked directly for others, counseled those that are as human as you and I, befriended some, took on the small roles not taken before to see faculty, staff and students succeed in the LaSalette mission. Manhattan College was his real family, and as spiritual ‘father’ he relished in his chosen work.

His work can’t be forgotten at places as the University of Louvain in Belgium, Saint Bernard’s Seminary, the Abbey of Genesee, Saint Raymond’s Parish and others, the Aids project in Manhattan and Harlem, even back to his days at the parishes in the Worcester Diocese. And of his many compadres along the way…Frank Scollen, George Ridick, Jim Garedella, Gary Keith and Bishop Timothy Harrington as well as many others in Worcester, Dan O’Shea at St. Bernard’s and the monks of the Abbey of Genesee, Monsignor Charlie Kavanaugh at Saint Raymonds, Lois Harr and the team, Steve Masiello and his team, the other sports teams like Golf and Baseball, Mike Carey in his role, and so many, many more.

This is a bitter sweet time for me. As Monsignor Charlie Kavanaugh, Lois Harr and I made our rounds as his advocates in the past few weeks when his body wouldn’t allow George to do so, it has been difficult to stand on the campus and see the business of education and Christianity continue like a beehive around me without George there… to go through his room, his sanctuary surrounded by pictures of my mother and father, tapestries from Belgium, piles of “stuff” tied to his meditation work … and to spend time communicating with dedicated people like Monsignor Kavanaugh, Lois Harr, Brennan O’Donnell, Steve Marsiello, the team in George’s office, security guards praying for him, students intently worried for his well being, the many messages left concerned about him … and then, to understand that these were the tell tale signs of the actions of my brother and his life’s mission. Bittersweet.

I’ve contemplated one short sentence from Father Thomas Merton for over 50 years, and it gives George Hill’s life credence today. “Love is its own reward.” Think about it. That’s always been a point of contemplation for me. Simple, but not.

Now, please remember my brother as the person that you knew him to be, whether for years or for fleeting minutes. The bottom line to George is he lived his Christianity, he used every gift God had bestowed upon him to make others better, happier, fulfilled. George carried his own cross those final weeks of his life, but he filled the world around him with love and light for 73 years. And now, his mission has grown and it includes you and I.

Finally, this body of individuals we know as Manhattan College is now an extension of the Hill family. Seriously, you sit at our table, you are in our daily thoughts, each of you are part of our prayers, and we are fulfilled for what my brother saw in his extended family around the campus and beyond into your own families homes. We believe in this Christian mission you live everyday. We are here for you as you have been here for us. George would also want that from all of us.

Thank you for all you have done for Father Hill and our family. God bless!

For the entire Hill family,

Tom Hill

(You can find us at miloandhill1@aol.com anytime, welcome to the family.)