Father David Hillier, 63, died from a heart attack on March 5.
Hillier was the priest at Our Lady of Visitation Catholic Church and an active member of Shippensburg University Campus Ministries. A week before his death, Hillier was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Born in New Brunswick, N.J., Hillier was ordained May 22, 1976, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Trenton. After serving the Catholic faith for 27 years in New Jersey, Hillier moved to Pennsylvania to work as the parochial vicar at St. John Neumann Church in Lancaster, Pa. His mission of faith ended at Our Lady of Visitation church in Shippensburg, Pa.
March 5, Hillier was present for the Ash Wednesday noon service at the SU spiritual center chapel. When Hillier did not appear for the 7 p.m. service, parishioners searched for him and found him at his late father’s apartment.
Hillier is survived by his sister, Patricia Ann, wife of Anthony DiSturco, of Williamsville, N.Y., nieces, Michelle Miller, Maria and Melanie DiSturco, and great-nephews, Grayson and Emerson.
Although his death was unexpected, the memories of Hillier make his remembrance a joyful experience.
“At Catholic campus ministry board meetings Father Dave lit us up with his jokes,” Joseph Zume, associate professor of geography and earth science, said. “Even when he was in bodily pain, Father Dave still managed to create humor.”
His infectious sense of humor and ability to see the good in everyone made Hillier very close to SU students and his parishioners.
Emily Slabonik, a student participant in Catholic campus ministry, was very close to Hillier. “He had a way of making everyone love him,” Slabonik said.
As a campus minister, Hillier initiated Sunday night mass, held confession for students, organized retreats, held Wednesday night dinners at the spiritual center and coordinated community service trips.
Hillier cooked home-made meals for the students and made everyone feel welcome at the spiritual center. Slabonik remembers confession with Hillier and how he made jokes to cheer her up.
“Father Dave felt his calling in life was to work with students in campus ministry,” Daniel Predecki, associate professor of chemistry said. “He was very proud of the Shippensburg University students who attended his Sunday evening service in the Cora I. Grove spiritual center.”
A memorial service was held for Hillier on March 7 at Our Lady of Visitation church, where many SU students were in attendance.
The funeral for Hillier will be held today at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Visitation church. The private burial will take place in St. Gertrude Cemetery, Iselin, N.J.