Jesuit Father Joseph B. Neville died on Sept. 3, 2016, at Murray-Weigel Hall in the Bronx, New York, at the age of 86. He had been a Jesuit for 69 years and a priest for 56. Fr. Neville was born in the Bronx on Oct. 31, 1929, to Brigid (née Conway) and John Neville from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.
He was baptized in St. Jerome’s Church in the Bronx on Nov. 17, 1929, and attended St. Jerome’s elementary school and Fordham Preparatory School. He entered the Society of Jesus after graduation from high school on Sept. 7, 1947, at the Jesuit novitiate of St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York, and pronounced his first vows on Sept. 8, 1949.
After completing the juniorate at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in 1951, Fr. Neville went to the Philippines to study philosophy at Berchmans College in Cebu City and then began teaching at the Ateneo de Zamboanga in 1954. He returned to the United States in 1957 to study theology at Woodstock College in Woodstock, Maryland. He was ordained a priest on June 18, 1960, at the Fordham University Church in the Bronx, did his tertianship at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs at Auriesville, New York, in 1961, and pronounced his final vows on Sept. 8, 1978.
In 1962, Fr. Neville was assigned as assistant principal of Regis High School in New York City, where he stayed until 1972. Upon completion of his work at Regis, Fr. Neville studied religious studies at Fordham University for one year and then taught religious studies at his alma mater, Fordham Preparatory School, from 1973 to 1979.
Fr. Neville began the work that was to occupy him for the rest of his life when he moved to the Jesuit retreat house of Christ the King in Syracuse, New York, where he gave retreats and was engaged in spiritual direction from 1979 to 1981. In 1981, he continued this work at the Loyola House of Retreats in Morristown, New Jersey, and then in 1987 at Mount Manresa Retreat House in Staten Island, New York.
Fr. Neville returned to Christ the King Retreat House in Syracuse in 1992 where he worked until 1994, when the Diocese of Syracuse assumed responsibility for the house. Fr. Neville then moved to the Jesuit Community at Le Moyne College, likewise in Syracuse, where he gave retreats and spiritual direction to a large number of clergy in New York and Pennsylvania. He also celebrated Mass in a number of parishes in the diocese, most recently at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. In all that he did, Fr. Neville radiated a spirit of hospitality and welcome to all. He became known for saying “a thousand welcomes!” and then radiating that spirit.
In July of 2016, Fr. Neville moved to Murray-Weigel Hall for rehabilitation after a fall. He suffered some medical setbacks and finally succumbed to pneumonia.