Jesuit Father William J. Hamilton died on Dec. 4, 2014, at Campion Center in Massachusetts. He was born on April 1, 1930, in Proctor, a small town a few miles west of Rutland, Vermont. His father worked at the quarries and eventually became superintendent. His mother, descended from Irish immigrants who had come to this country at the time of the potato famine, taught in a two-room schoolhouse. His father became a Catholic after their marriage. Fr. Hamilton was born with curvature of the spine which, in spite of childhood braces, left him with a lifelong awkward gait. A much older sister, Mary, studied French in college and introduced Fr. Hamilton to the language through coloring books.
He attended local schools in Proctor and Rutland and then spent two years at Georgetown University, where his interest in priesthood blossomed though it wasn’t clear to him whether he should enter the diocesan clergy or the Jesuits. He applied to the Diocese of Burlington, which in those days, like other dioceses in northern New England, sent its young seminarians to the Seminaire de Philosophy in Montreal. He received a B.A. from the University of Montreal in 1951. Fr. Hamilton chafed, however, under what he perceived as the prejudices of Quebec’s clerical culture against the American seminarians. Finding his bishop less than sympathetic, he began to think seriously about the Jesuits.
In 1952, he entered the novitiate of the New England Province at Shadowbrook, where he took first vows in 1954. After a year of juniorate, he moved to Weston for two years of philosophy studies, where he found the course less intellectually satisfying than the Thomism of the Montreal Sulpicians. Two years of regency were spent teaching chemistry, somewhat to his dismay, and French at Cheverus High School in Portland. From 1959 to 1963, he studied theology at Weston College and was ordained a priest there in June 1963. He went to tertianship that same year, in Pomfret, Connecticut. In 1964-65, the studied mathematics at Fordham University, then returned to Portland, Maine, where he taught math at Cheverus High School for two years.
In 1967, a frank conversation with Provincial Bill Guindon led him to move to parish ministry, a work that would engage him for most of the next twenty years in various places in the dioceses of Norwich, Connecticut; Boston; and Manchester, New Hampshire. He spent a sabbatical year, in 1985-86, at the Gregorian University, Rome. When he returned, his growing concern for parishioners he had met whose psychological problems were not being met by underbudgeted VA and state hospitals led him to move into hospital ministry, where he spent most of the rest of his working life, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Boston; and Manchester, New Hampshire. During these years, he also did parish work in Lynnfield and Dedham, Massachusetts.
In 2009, health reasons led to his being moved to Campion Center where he spent the last years of his life. He died there, unexpectedly, during the evening of December 4, 2014.