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Obituary: Father John Gentleman, pastor in Essex and Manchester by the Sea

Father John W. Gentleman Pilot file photo

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His classmate and close friend for some 30 years, Father James A. Flavin was the principal celebrant and homilist of the Funeral Mass of Father John W. Gentleman. The Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart Church, Manchester by the Sea on Feb. 7. Father Gentleman died at Massachusetts General Hospital on Jan. 31. He was 55. Father Walter Carreiro, long time friend of Father Gentleman, celebrated a Mass at St. John the Baptist Essex for that parish on Feb. 6,: Father Albert Capone preached at the Mass.

A Lynn native he was one of the two sons of the late John A. and Marilyn M. (Clancy) Gentleman. He attended St. Pius Fifth elementary school and St. Mary High School both in Lynn. He graduated from Salem State College (now University) with a Bachelor of Science degree.

He entered archdiocesan seminaries and following his seminary studies he was ordained at Holy Cross Cathedral on June 20, 1987 by Bernard Cardinal Law. His first priestly assignment was parochial vicar at St. Andrew Parish, Billerica. Five years later he moved to neighboring Chelmsford as parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish.

From 2000 to 2008 he was assigned to Holy Family Parish in Amesbury. He was a member and moderator of the team ministry there (2000-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009) and as administrator of the parish (2007, 2008).

In November 2009 he was named the administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish, Essex and Sacred Heart Parish, Manchester by the Sea, and three months later on Feb. 1, 2010 he was named pastor of both parishes. His experience as pastor in Amesbury where two parishes had been merged to for Holy Family Parish proved a good basis for his dual assignments at Essex and Manchester by the Sea.

About a decade ago, Father Gentleman had undergone a liver transplant; not surprisingly the recovery period was long but also successful. He was back to work and building both parishes, making needed improvements to both parish plants as well as building other aspects of parish life in both parishes.

As recent as a month ago, he was able to travel to Rome with a group of priests. Some sensed he was looking tired but "kept up with us during the trip." On his return to his parishes there was a sudden decline in his stamina requiring hospitalization at Mass General.

A group of 30 brother priest concelebrated the Funeral Mass with Father Flavin among them friends, classmates and contemporaries of Father Gentleman: Fathers Albert Capone; Paul Flammia; David Callahan, Albert Faretra, Philip Earley.

Bishop Arthur L. Kennedy presided at the Mass and celebrated the Final Commendation.

Father Carreiro said "He was very solicitous of others; made friends readily and quickly and maintained them for years." Father Capone said, "He was always the first one to call and let anyone of us know of his care, concern and prayers if any of us, his priest friends, was in any need." Another said "He loved to party -- equally as host or a guest."

Following the Funeral Mass, Father Gentleman was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Lynn. He is survived by his older brother, Timothy of Lynn.

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