Missionary wore many hats as brother and priest in Papua New Guinea


Father William Halvey SVD, 95, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, died on Tuesday at Techny, Ill.

Father Halvey worked in Papua New Guinea for 26 years, first as a brother, then as a priest. His talents numbered many as he transitions from postmaster to office worker to teacher, pastor and retreat center director.

Born in Chicago in 1928, William Edward Halvey was the second of Edward and Mary Elizabeth (nee Mullins) Halvey’s five children. He grew up and attended St. Mel parish on Chicago’s Southside. After graduating from St. Mel High School, he entered the United States Army.

After two years in the military—one with occupation troops in Japan—he attended Loras College in Dubuque for two years. In 1951, he entered the Brothers’ Candidate School of the Society of the Divine Word and professed vows in 1954, taking the name Gordian.

After professing perpetual vows in 1960, he served as a postmaster at the United States Post Office at Techny before being sent to Papua New Guinea for his first overseas assignment in a customs office in Wirui.

After four years in Papua New Guinea, Brother Gordian received permission to obtain teacher training in Port Moresby. He taught at a school in Boikin for seven years and later went to work at a hospital in Dagua that was founded and staffed by an order of religious sisters.

Discerning a call to the priesthood, Brother Gordian received permission to attend St. Paul’s National Seminary in Kensington, New South Wales, Australia. He was ordained to the priesthood at Techny in 1976 and then returned to Papua New Guinea.

The newly ordained Father Halvey served in Yangoru and Warabung, at the cathedral in Wewak and at the Kaindi Teacher Training College.

In 1985, he returned to the United States and taught high school English and Scripture in Spokane, Wash., before being assigned to the Divine Word Southern Province, where he served as director of the St. Augustine Retreat Center in Bay St. Louis, Miss., for 11 years.

In 2003, he became chaplain to the cloistered Benedictine Sisters at San Beneto Monastery in Dayton, Wyo., and served the local parish of St. Edmond on weekends.

In semi-retirement, Father Halvey lived in the Divine Word community in Bordentown, N.J., and served local parishes on weekends. In 2007, he moved to Techny to retire full time.

Father Halvey’s wake and funeral Mass took place on June 23 at the Divine Word Residence chapel. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in the name of Father Halvey can be made for the care of retired missionaries and sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.

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