Father Jean Gobeil passed away early in the night of July 15, at the Résidence Notre-Dame in Richelieu. He was 91 years old. He had contracted colon cancer a few years ago which had spread to his lungs. Jean moved from Sudbury to the care unit at the Richelieu residence in February 2020 due to his deteriorating health. The adjustment to his new living environment was not easy for him. But he lived it positively.
He was born in Chicoutimi, Quebec on January 4, 1930. He completed his classical studies (high school and college) at the Chicoutimi Seminary. Before entering the novitiate at Sault-au-Récollet on August 14, 1951, he spent some time at Laval Hospital in Quebec City to be treated for tuberculosis. There he met Father René Paquin, who was receiving the same care and who was a missionary in the Near East (in Egypt). He had a very good impression of him. It was perhaps the example of this Jesuit that inspired him to ask three times, during his formation, to be sent on a mission abroad.
After his novitiate and a year of juniorate, he did a year of regency at Collège Saint-Ignace in Montreal, where he taught mathematics. He then studied philosophy from 1955 to 1957 at Regis College in Toronto. He then did two more years of regency at Collège Saint-Ignace before continuing his theological studies at the Scolasticat de l’Immaculée-Conception, in Montreal, from 1959 to 1963. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 21, 1962 in the Église de l’Immaculée-Conception by Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger, Archbishop of Montreal. Before his tertianship, which he did in Belgium in 1965-66, he taught religious studies for two years at the University of Sudbury. Throughout his formation, John was an avid summer student, first in mathematics (at the University of Montreal and at Columbia University in the United States) and, after his theology, studying ecclesiology and biblical studies at the University of San Francisco.
John was a scholarly man of great intellectual curiosity. He stayed in Belgium for a year after his tertianship to take courses in religious psychology and ecumenism at the University of Louvain. During his years of teaching at the University of Sudbury (1967-1996), he deepened his knowledge of the Bible and patrology, and became interested in Native Americans, their culture and religious traditions, not only in Canada, but also in Mexico. Despite his poor health, he never refused to take on other tasks that were offered to him. Just after he left the university, the authorities awarded him an honorary doctorate in religious studies.
His years at Villa Loyola (1996-2020) were busy. In addition to directing the spiritual programs that took place there, for more than twenty years, he continued to give courses at the university and elsewhere. Together with Fr. Jean-Louis D’Aragon, he presented commentaries on the texts of the Word of God from the daily liturgy on the Internet for a very wide audience. At the Villa, he took care of the maintenance of the property and did many other things. On the occasion of his 85th birthday, a confrere and friend gave this testimony about Jean: that he was “a Jesuit who grows old cultivating knowledge, health and holiness”.
Jean Gobeil leaves behind a few relatives and many friends and acquaintances. His funeral will be celebrated in the presence of his ashes, at a date yet to be determined, at Sainte-Anne Church in Sudbury.