Rev. William Driscoll, 81, Jesuit priest and Loyola College chaplain

February 01, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The Rev. William M. J. Driscoll, a Jesuit priest whose charm helped him raise funds for his order, died Saturday of cardiac arrest at Stella Maris Hospice. The former Loyola College chaplain was 81.

In the 1950s and '60s, he was one of the best-known Jesuit clerics in Baltimore. He established a wide following by giving talks, visiting families and writing thousands of letters to potential donors.

"He was a classic Jesuit priest a great friend of many old Baltimore families," said Hugh W. Mohler, president of Bay National Corp. "He knew where all the Catholic wealth was in Baltimore."

As director of the Jesuit Seminary and Mission Bureau from 1953 to 1963, he solicited funds for the education of his order's priests and for the support of a large Roman Catholic mission in India. He was also editor of the Jesuit.

"He was handsome, charming, articulate, spiritual and knowledgeable," said the Rev. Joseph M. Kennedy, associate director of the Jesuit Mission Office. "In his day, he was the best-known Jesuit in Maryland."

From 1969 to 1993, Father Driscoll was also director and commentator of the Radio Mass, a Sunday morning program broadcast from the chapel of what now is Mercy Medical Center.

"He had a cherubic face," said the Rev. Michael Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew's Parish in Manchester. "He knew everybody -- and never forgot a name. He seemed to be in a hurry, but always had the time to talk."

Born in Lawrence, Mass., Father Driscoll received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and a master's degree from Boston College. He received a degree in theology from Woodstock College in Woodstock.

He entered the Society of Jesus in 1941 and pronounced his vows two years later. He was ordained a priest June 17, 1951.

As a young Jesuit scholastic -- he had not been ordained a priest yet -- he taught rhetoric, English literature and French at Loyola College. He was so successful as a fund-raiser there that he helped pay off the debt on the Loyola College Alumni Chapel on the school's Evergreen campus.

He was rector of Georgetown Preparatory School in Rockville from 1963 to 1966 and was chaplain of Loyola College until 1970. While on the Loyola campus, he picked up the nickname "Chappie" Driscoll, for chaplain.

In the 1950s, he spent time in the Jamshedpur region of India, with its population of 4.5 million in a district the size of Massachusetts, where the Maryland Jesuits operated several schools and conducted missionary work.

In a 1959 interview in The Sun, he described the mission as "a mingling of the East and West that would stupefy Kipling a mingling of the oxcart and the diesel locomotive, the Bessemer converter and the village blacksmith."

In recent years, he gave up many of his duties, but by a special arrangement had a confessional at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, where he listened to penitents Saturday afternoons.

Father Driscoll leaves no immediate survivors.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Stella Maris Chapel, Dulaney Valley Road.

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