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Former Trustee and Lincoln Center Chaplain George Quickley, S.J., Dies at 75


George Quickley, S.J., a former member of Fordham’s Board of Trustees and chaplain for the Lincoln Center campus, died on Nov. 21 at Murray Weigel Hall in the Bronx. He was 75 and had been ill since late spring. 

In his role as chaplain, Father Quickley ministered to the Lincoln Center campus community until September 2020. Erin Hoffman, director of campus ministry at Lincoln Center, called him a role model and a friend who could often be heard singing and snapping his fingers along with whatever he was saying. 

“He was so authentic and joyful and brought out the best in others. He had an inner peace and freedom that was contagious,” she said, noting that his deep spirituality grounded him and gave him the confidence and humility that fed such a freedom.  

Carol Gibney, director of campus ministry, solidarity, and leadership, remembered Father Quickley as a “joy-filled soul” who once brought a small group of faculty and staff to tears with a heart-wrenching rendition of the song Amazing Grace.

“He had a thick faith that he wore like a comfortable, comforting shawl and shared with everyone that he met, and his warmth and joy were infectious,” she said. 

“Those of us that were blessed to know and work with him will remember him fondly and close our eyes and hear his deep, powerful voice and imagine him singing with the choirs of all the angels in heaven.”

A native of Baltimore who converted to Catholicism in 1962, Father Quickley entered the Society of Jesus in 1974, studied at Fordham in 1977, and was ordained a priest in 1980. After serving as assistant pastor at St. Aloysius in Washington D.C., he taught subjects such as Latin, religion, and English at Gonzaga College High School and Mackin Catholic High School in D.C. He completed his final vows in 1995.

From 1989 to 1996, he served as the Catholic chaplain for Lorton Reformatory, a prison system outside in Lorton, Virginia. In 1996, he moved to Nigeria, where he served in multiple roles, including Provincial for the Society of Jesus Northwest Africa Province from 2005 to 2011.

When he returned from Africa he lived at Fordham during a yearlong sabbatical. In June 2012, he left to take an assignment as pastor at St. Patrick’s in Oakland. He served on Fordham’s Board of Trustees from 2014 until 2018. In 2019, he assumed the title of chaplain for the Lincoln Center campus and took up residence in McMahon Hall. 

Father Quickley made an impact on many students, including Roxanne Cubero, a senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center who interviewed him in 2019 for an article in The Observer newspaper. In the Q&A, he talked about his passion for singing and what it was like to be in Nigeria during 9/11.

“Interviewing Father Quickley is one of my favorite things that I’ve ever done for The Observer and I was greatly saddened when I heard of his passing,” Cubero said.

The infectious energy that Father Quickley brought to everyday interactions was matched by a fierce determination to expose racism. In a 2012 interview with Patrick Ryan, S.J., for the series Jesuits in Conversation, he shared how in 1964 he spoke at length with a Jesuit about joining the Society of Jesus. The priest informed him that to be admitted to seminary, he’d have to have been a Catholic for three years. Father Quickley had only left the Presbyterian faith two years prior. But he sensed there was more to it than that.

“I had the impression that he was saying to me, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ And I don’t remember him taking my phone number,” he said.

The next decade was a tumultuous one for both the country and for Father Quickley, who grew so disillusioned with racism he experienced in the church that he dropped out of a diocesan seminary he’d entered and taught special education at a public school for three years. 

“But this desire for priesthood never ever went away. So, after a long teacher strike that went on for well over a month, I began to think, ‘Is this what God is calling me to?’” he said.

In 1974, he was accepted at the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues, in Wernersville, Pennsylvania. He spoke to two other Black men who were studying there.  

“My biggest question for them was, are you at home in this congregation? And they were both very positive,” he said.

Several people recalled Father Quickley’s influence as a Black Jesuit at Fordham.

For Gibney, an 8 p.m. Mass that he presided over at St. Paul the Apostle Church in March 2012 is a particularly vivid memory for her.

“He walked up the long aisle of the church wearing a hoodie under his priest’s robes and chasuble, and when he got up to the altar, he asked the congregation if they knew that even up there on the altar, wearing a hoodie, he could still get shot, simply because he was a Black man,” Gibney said. 

“In the recent aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin, his words were chilling. And when he spoke about the tragedy of this young man’s death and his own experience as a Black man in America being profiled multiple times, he opened the eyes and hearts of many of the students that attended that Mass that evening to the racism experienced by so many people of color in the world.”

Hoffman agreed that Father Quickley had a profound influence in his short time on campus.

“I talked with many people of color since we learned of George’s death, and they have remarked on how impactful it was to have a Black Jesuit here on campus and how he helped empower them spiritually and otherwise,” she said.

Father Ryan, who like Father Quickley spent time living in Africa, said he felt honored the two were friends for 26 years. He attended the funeral Mass for his friend on Dec. 1. 

“In the last couple of years, George has been my spiritual director as well. I found his funeral at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Harlem very consoling. George was seven years younger than I, and he has gone before me. I now ask him in the presence of our risen Lord to guide me on the path to join him with Christ and all the saints,” he said.

In the 2012 interview, Father Ryan asked Father Quickley what it meant to be a Jesuit. Quickley cited Decree 26: “Conclusion: Characteristics of Our Way of Proceeding,” a description of eight Jesuit characteristics that the Society of Jesus adopted in 1995. 

“Men on a mission, men with a passion for excellence, men who are sinners but who recognize that they are loved by God, men who have a passion to be with the poor—for me, that’s the ideal,” he said.

“My work, although not in the university, has been intellectual. We are intellectuals. Whether we’re in the parish or working in a soup kitchen, there’s an intellectual dimension. It’s the insight, it’s the discernment that we bring to our work that uplifts the people of God.”

One of his last public acts was to welcome Fordham students back to campus in 2020 in a Fordham Magis Minute video. In the video, which was posted in August, he welcomed them, unsurprisingly, with song.

A recording of Father Quickley’s funeral can be found here. 

Notes of condolence can be sent to Father Quickley’s cousin, Veronda Pitchford, at 5320 North Sheridan Rd., Apt. 2505, Chicago, IL 60640.


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