- Father William Gleeson
Father William Gleeson ["The Late Reverend Father William Gleeson," by Bryan J. Clinch, Dominicana, Dominican College, San Rafael, California, Volume 4 (1903), pages 110-112.] was a
Roman Catholic priest, missionary, linguist, and historian.
He was born
January 29, 1827, in County Tipperary, Ireland, and was privately educated before entering All Hallows Collegeat Drumcondranorth of Dublinto prepare for missionary service. He was ordained in 1853.
Soon after his ordination, Father Gleeson volunteered for service in
Indiaand was sent to Agraunder the supervision of Ignatius Persico. He was placed in charge of a nearby congregation at Saldana, where he learned Hindustaniand the Persian languagefrom his parishioners.
Father Gleeson was at Agra when it was taken by
Tantya Topeduring the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and subsequently served as a chaplain to Catholic soldiers in the British Army. It was in this capacity that he became acquainted with Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clydeand Sir James Outram, 1st Baronet.
Unfortunately, a few years after peace was restored, a serious illness nearly deprived Father Gleeson of his voice and convinced him to leave India to accept a teaching position at
Vincentians' College at Izmirin Turkey. There he learned Arabic.
Father Gleeson was eventually invited to spend a year doing missionary work in the
Diocese of Salfordin England, and three years in Glasgow, Scotland. But, the climate in those two places disagreed with him, and he accepted a calling to teach ancient languages at St. Mary's College of Californiaby 1870. [1870 Census, 11th Ward of San Francisco, California, page 592a.]
It was while teaching in
San Franciscothat Father Gleeson wrote his most famous work: History of the Catholic Church in California. It was published in 1872, a year after he had resumed parochial work in East Oakland, Fruitvale, and Alameda, California.
Father Gleeson continued to enjoy learning foreign languages as a pastor, including the
Portuguese languageof his parishioners and the Hebrewand Syro-Chaldaic writings he studied.
He died on his seventy-sixth birthday, January 29, 1903, having suffered a
strokefour days earlier while preparing for late Sunday Mass at St. Anthony's Church. His funeral was held there on January 31, with burial following at nearby St. Mary's Cemetery.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.