Brother Francis Gillen, Charlestown Native, Passes at Age 87 in Philippines

By Seth Daniel

Brother Francis Joseph Gillen (George Carey Gillen), a native of Charlestown, died on Aug. 2 of pneumonia in Bulacan, Philippines.

He was 87 years old and was in the service of God for 71 years before passing away.

His brothers, Moe and Cmdr. Robert Gillen – both of Charlestown, announced that a memorial Mass will take place on Aug. 20 at 9 a.m.

Brother Gillen was known for establishing a hospital in the Philippines to care for mentally challenged patients, orphans and “incurables” in a place where no one was willing or able to take care of them.

Testimonies from others in the Brothers of Mercy of St. John of God and Hospicio de San Juan Dios – which Brother Gillen founded – were that he was a man of incredible patience. They said he was always there to encourage them when they were ready to give up on the mission.

In 1948, Francis Gillen left his large family in Charlestown behind – not even finishing high school – to pursue God’s work of helping those on the lowest rungs of society throughout the world.

He was attracted to the service of God from an early age when attending the old St. Mary’s Church.

When he was 12, Francis would follow around doctors who made house calls and collect the sample medications from them that they didn’t need. He would then bring them over to the Little Sisters of the Poor, which acted as a visiting nurse organization for the church.

Francis Gillen attended Commerce High School in Boston – which no longer exists – and was scheduled to graduate in 1949. However, he left the school in 1948 in hearing the calling to serve the poor. He never turned back from his work after making that decision.

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