John J. Gavigan, O.S.A.

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1913 – 1994 (July 7)

John Joseph Gavigan was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on August 23, 1913, to John Gavigan and Mary Cahill. He was baptized at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Church in Atlantic City, and attended the parish school, graduating in 1926. That same year, at the age of thirteen, he applied to the Order as a postulant and attended Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York. He entered the novitiate in 1930 New Hamburg, New York, and professed simple vows on September 12, 1931. Three years later he professed solemn vows at Saint Mary’s Hall. John graduated from Villanova College with an A.B. in philosophy and began his studies in theology at Augustinian College in Washington, DC. On June 7, 1938, he was ordained to the priesthood. While studying theology, he took graduate courses in Greek language and literature at the Catholic University of America and in 1939 was granted a master’s degree.

Father Gavigan’s first assignment was to Villanova College as an instructor in the Classics. At the same time he pursued a doctorate in classical languages at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his degree in 1943. In 1947, he became one of the first faculty members of newly founded Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. During the summer months he took further courses at Laval University in Quebec, Canada. In 1947, he was assigned to the Universidad de Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Havana, Cuba as an instructor and administrator. In 1955, Father Gavigan was sent to the Order’s International College, Saint Monica, Rome, as an instructor in church history. While teaching, he earned a doctorate in church history from the Gregorian University in 1960. From 1966 to 1969, he was professor of Patrology, Church History and Christian archeology at the Lateran University. While stationed in Rome, Father John was the English editor of Acta Ordinis and director of the review, Augustinianum. In 1969, he was transferred to the Austrian Vicariate and was assigned to Saint Augustine Church in Vienna. While stationed at this church, once a chapel of the Hapsburg Family, he was able to accomplish much of the research for his works on the history of the Order. In 1975, Father Gavigan returned to the United States and was assigned to Saint Thomas Monastery, Villanova, and served as chaplain to the Mercy Sisters of McCauley Convent, Merion, Pennsylvania. In 1982, he was appointed assistant pastor of Saint Thomas of Villanova Church in Rosemont, and in 1986, returned to Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts. Though he was seventy-three years of age, he was soon teaching a full course in classical and modern languages. In 1991, Father returned to Saint Thomas Monastery, Villanova, where, after a brief illness, he died on July 7, 1994 in Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

Father Gavigan was a world-known scholar in the Classics and Church History. He was fluent in several languages, wrote numerous articles as well as six books, When asked why he did not retire from teaching, he replied that he wanted to give something in return for the good health God had given him. At the time of his death, he was eighty-one years of age. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on July 11 at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church with Father John Deegan, O.S.A., prior provincial, as celebrant and Father George Lawless, O.S.A., as homilist Interment was in the Augustinian plot of Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.