June 22, 2020 – Fr. John J. Mandile, SJ, was born on April 6, 1926, in Boston, Mass., the second oldest of the seven children of Fredrick and Margaret (Marchese) Mandile. His father worked two jobs—at the post office and at City Hall—in order to support the large family. Still, they were able to live in West Roxbury, a fairly upscale section of Boston, and send the three boys to B.C. High and the four girls to St. Thomas in Jamaica Plain. The family was quite religious. Fr. Mandile’s father had studied for two years at Saint John’s Seminary as a young man and later became a Third Order Franciscan.
His mother’s side of the family was prosperous, thanks to the four barbershops his maternal grandfather owned. But his grandfather’s behavior troubled Fr. Mandile, because he never went to church. He asked his mother about this. “You have to understand that in Italy men don’t go to church very often,” she said. “It’s a different culture.” This still bothered Fr. Mandile; his mother said she would ask his father to speak to the old man. So, at the age of 85, his grandfather became a regular churchgoer.
Fr. Mandile was an altar boy until he was 17 and he credits his first thoughts of a vocation to the young curates he knew in the parish. He told one story: Altar boys in his parish were required to wear white cotton gloves. Fr. Mandile used to wear the gloves his father had worn at his wedding. One Sunday, when he was assigned to the High Mass, he forgot the gloves and tried to hide his hands under his surplice. The formidable pastor noticed this in the middle of the Mass and banished him in front of a church full of people. Fr. Mandile was furious; “I hate him,” he said over and over in the sacristy. One of the curates comforted him, “Jackie, you’re lucky; you only see him once a week. I have to live with him five days a week.”
At B.C. High he found the same kind of friendliness among the Jesuit scholastics but also something he didn’t know how to name, a kind of sacredness, he called it. He pondered the idea of a vocation in a place he regularly visited when he had something to think about, Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, not far from his home. There he decided he would apply to the Society. He entered the Shadowbrook novitiate in March of 1944 (the unusual date was a wartime expedient to ensure applicants would not be drafted immediately after they graduated from high school).
Fr. Mandile followed the normal course of studies: juniorate at Shadowbrook (1946-1948) and philosophy studies at Weston (1948-1951). He was assigned to B.C. High for regency (1951-1954). He liked his first experience of teaching, helping kids through their intellectual and social growing pains, the camaraderie of the many scholastics who could be relied on when he needed help, and the rector Fr. Frank Gilday to whom you could bring any problem.
When Fr. Mandile got back to Weston for theology studies he now thought of himself as a future teacher. He was ordained a priest in 1957 and a year later, as was the custom then, he went to tertianship at Pomfret, Conn. His first assignment as a priest was to Cheverus High School, in Portland, Maine, where he taught religion and history for five years. Something was missing, though, he thought; summers he spent in a parish and he found that life attractive, the weekend Masses, the company of diocesan priests like those who first encouraged his vocation. In any case the matter was settled when he got into an argument with the Prefect of Discipline; when the status came out, he found himself assigned to be a chaplain at Worcester City Hospital.
A year later he was assigned to Boston City Hospital, where he spent the next three years. This was a taxing assignment, largely because the head chaplain was the demanding “General” Lawrence Brock. (His nickname came from his service in the Massachusetts National Guard). Fr. Mandile had known him from the month he had spent there as a tertian and had been the target of Brock’s wrath more than once. But now he was here fulltime. So, on the day he began his new assignment he told the General that the first time he yelled at him he would leave the hospital and go live with his parents in the family home. This worked and the General changed his demeanor entirely. Still, Fr. Mandile wasn’t satisfied with hospital ministry and felt God was testing him. When he told the provincial how he felt, the provincial told him to find his own job. Fr. Mandile moved into retreat work, first in Ridgefield, Conn., and then at the newly opened Round Hills in South Dartmouth, Mass., which also functioned summers as a province villa. He spent four years in this ministry and enjoyed the assignment, but for various reasons the Round Hills retreat operation was unsustainable, and the house closed in 1973.
For the next eleven years Fr. Mandile did what he realized now was what he most liked to do, parish work, in Revere, Framingham, and Natick. Then he spent a year in the Clinical Pastoral Education program in Springfield, Mass. After the CPE program, Fr. Mandile did parish ministry for the rest of his working life, notably a long period in which he was assistant pastor at St. Zepherin’s Parish in Wayland, Mass. He also was able to spend a sabbatical year in two renewal programs in Santa Barbara and in Jerusalem.
He had been living at Campion Center while he worked in Natick and Wayland. In 2008 it was decided that he would retire from active ministry and enter the health center at Campion. Never was anyone less retired. He golfed. He skied. He took dance lessons. He continued to find time for parish ministry. He was an avid gardener, both at Campion and at St. Zepherin’s. And he could be persuaded to perform a hilarious cabaret number in community talent shows. He was a delightful dinner-table companion.
He continued to devour the Globe and the Times but his health gradually declined. He died peacefully at the age of 95 on the morning of June 22, 2020.
In keeping with public health recommendations due to the coronavirus, the wake and funeral Mass for Jack on Friday, June 26, 2020 at Campion Center will be private.
BURIAL: Campion Center, Weston, Mass.