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Peter Gilmour

By Eileen Daily


Peter Gilmour (born 1942) was a fresh voice bringing narrative theology to religious education in the 1980s. As an early lay religious educator in the Catholic context he has long had an impact on keeping Catholic religious education reaching beyond parochial concerns, toward the humanities, sciences, and other religions as evidence of divine action in the world. His involvement in and commitment to Catholic schooling has remained grounded in the notion that the entire operating structure and curriculum of the school is religious education. 


            Peter Allan Gilmour was born on November 25, 1942 at the University of Chicago Hospital, a few blocks from where the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place several days later. He was the second of three boys born to John B. and Genevieve V. (Collins) Gilmour. He attended Saint Philip Neri School in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago for grades K-3. It was staffed by Adrian Dominican Sisters. He spent grades 4-8 at Saint Cajetan School in Chicago’s Morgan Park neighborhood, where he was taught by Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. He was a member of the charter class at Brother Rice High School, a school named for the founder of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers, who staffed the school (this order was in the past referred to as the Irish Christian Brothers).

        The experience of Catholic school was the first major influence on Peter Gilmour, the eventual religious educator. Though the process of reflecting on his experience as a Catholic school student and acknowledging its powerful influence occurred some years later, the immersion had a lasting influence. Over time Gilmour became conscious of the holistic integrity of the fabric woven with the humanities, sciences, and theology in these schools. The areas of study weren’t treated so much as isolated disciplines but as sundry wondrous manifestations of God’s creation/revelation, not so much as jigsaw pieces of a coherent meta-narrative but more akin to the colors, shapes, and aromas of a stunningly beautiful field of wildflowers. More on this idea below.

After high school, Gilmour crossed the north-south border in Chicago and attended Loyola University Chicago, a Jesuit school in the Rogers Park neighborhood, where Gilmour has lived since. His passion for literature was nurtured as an English major at Loyola; in 1964, he was awarded a Bachelor of Science in English.

Toward the end of his senior year at Loyola, a theology professor invited Peter Gilmour to consider a summer job at Loyola, helping out in a new summer program designed for Catholic high school religion teachers. The theology professor was Jesuit priest Michael Gannon who had just finished his studies at the Institut Catholique in Paris. Gannon’s co-founders of this summer institute were Mark Link, SJ (who had just returned from Lumen Vitae with Vincent Novak, SJ), Rev. John Gorman, later Rector of Mundelein Seminary, and Rev. Theodore Stone, later Director of Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago. The new program was called the “Institute of Pastoral Studies” or “IPS” and it offered the Master of Religious Education degree. During that first summer (and for the next several summers), Peter Gilmour served as switchboard operator in the residence hall, mimeograph machine operator, airport shuttle for guest lecturers, and general gopher.

            The mid-sixties were heady times in the Catholic Church, full of hope, energy, creativity, and innovation. Gilmour was stimulated not only by the formal lectures of such notables as Alfonso Nebreda, S.J., Bernhard Häring, C.Ss.R., James DiGiacomo, S.J.,  Gene D. Phillips, S.J., and Bernard J. Boelen but also by his informal contact with them.  He was awarded the Master of Religious Education in 1971. It should be noted that Gilmour was one of a handful of lay students in the IPS program serving several hundred.

            In the early days, IPS was a summers-only program so Gilmour also needed academic-year employment. From 1965 - 69, the young Mr. Gilmour taught English and religion at St. George High School in Evanston, Illinois, a school operated by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, sometimes known as the French Christian Brothers, the De La Salle Christian Brothers, or the Lasallian Christian Brothers. At the beginning of his third year Gilmour became chair of the religion department. He held this position until the school closed in 1969.  

In the fall of 1969, Gilmour began teaching at Saint Patrick High School in Chicago. He was hired to teach religion but during the summer of 1970, Gilmour and some colleagues created a mini-school for about 160 sophomores, called “I-PROJECT.” This was an interdisciplinary school within a school that integrated the humanities and the sciences. So in one sense, Gilmour continued to teach religion in this new school-within-a-school, but now religion was one perspective on life in dialogue with with many other perspectives. St. Patrick High School was also operated by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Gilmour taught in the mini-school until 1974. The program was similar to the interdisciplinary immersion programs that became more common in later decades.

In the late 1950s, the Lasallian Christian Brothers’ had purchased property at which they established the LaSalle Manor Retreat Center to serve their four high schools in Chicago. The Retreat Center added a dormitory in the 1960s. While teaching at St Patrick High School, Gilmour’s work included bringing students to LaSalle Manor for retreats. By 1974, Gilmour had been teaching high school for ten years and was hungry for a new challenge, a different type of education. The retreat center offered him that plus the flexibility to be more involved in Institute of Pastoral Studies’ growing academic-year program.

The positions at St. George High School, St. Patrick High School, and LaSalle Manor may seem like separate episodes to an outsider but from Gilmour’s perspective there was a deep continuity among these three positions. All of these institutions were ministries of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded by Saint John Baptiste de La Salle, who is for Catholics, the patron saint of teachers. Lasallian education is characterized by a deep commitment to educating poor children by teaching literacy and other intellectual content but in such a way that the love of Jesus Christ touches the students’ hearts. These days it is articulated as “teaching minds and touching hearts.” What that has long meant in practice is that poor, underprivileged children are taught in such a way that they experience their own dignity and worth and are in turn empowered to love and serve others. At Saint George High School, Gilmour found exciting, cutting-edge educators. He was exposed to the life of Saint John Baptist de La Salle, an aristocrat who surrendered all of his wealth and power to teach street urchins and to form a group of teachers who shared his commitment. Gilmour experienced the Lasallian Christian Brothers’ schools and retreat center as comprehensive, aimed at preparing students for a well-lived life, not just a well-heeled college. From his perspective, this was the significance of a Catholic school education and it caused Gilmour to have substantial qualms about the potential efficacy of parish-based religious education programs that aimed to form young Catholics for a well-lived life in just 90 minutes per week. Although Gilmour has since encountered many other formative influences, his Lasallian commitment to the poor, to comprehensive, interdisciplinary education, and to forming intellects and hearts is still evident.

Beginning in the early 1970s, the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago slowly expanded from a summer-only program to a primarily summer program with some academic-year offerings. By the early 1980s, the IPS academic year program was thriving. In the early 70s, Gilmour’s role within IPS began to evolve. No longer the gopher who had just graduated college, Gilmour had his MA and had earned some credibility as an innovative teacher. By 1974, Gilmour was responsible for a number of administrative aspects of the program, especially in the publishing arena (course catalogs, brochures, advertising, etc.); taught an IPS course most semesters; and starting in 1976, supervised the student teachers. Some of his courses were signs of his research interests in that they combined his love of literature with religious education.

By the end of the 1970s, Gilmour was feeling the need for more education. So formed was he by the cutting edge pedagogy of IPS that he rejected the traditional PhD path and chose instead an innovative Doctor of Ministry program at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake under the direction of John Shea. Students were urged early in the program to choose a dissertation topic. IPS had been educating movers and shakers in the Catholic Church. One IPS student was a religious sister about to take a job as administrator of a parish – a very unusual phenomenon at a time when parishes were typically administered by ordained priests. A luncheon conversation with this student sparked Gilmour’s curiosity about the new practice of non-priests serving as parish administrators. He decided to investigate the phenomenon for his doctoral project. He interviewed non-priest-parish-administrators in five Midwestern dioceses, essentially asking them to recount their stories. Gilmour received the Doctor of Ministry degree in 1985 and published a revision of his dissertation in 1986 as The Emerging Pastor (1986). His interest in pastoral leadership continued and became an ongoing topic of teaching and research.

Until the early 1980s, Loyola’s IPS had been staffed exclusively by adjunct faculty. In the mid-1980s it began developing a roster of full-time faculty members and in 1988 Gilmour joined that group. From that time until his retirement he took on the role of Graduate Program Director for several programs: Master of Pastoral Studies (1995-8), Master of Religious Education (1998-2002), Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (2002-5), and Master of Arts in Religious Education (2005-8).

In 1988, then-Director Timothy O’Connell commissioned Peter Gilmour to produce a video that could be shared with adjunct faculty members, a film that would demonstrate the IPS way of educating for ministry. Gilmour made practical and replicable the basics of adult models of education for the many theological and pastoral academics who taught at IPS. The video was called, “At the Heart of the Tradition.” Robert O’Gorman, Ph.D. sees this video as having had deep and prolonged effect on the teaching methodologies of dozens of academics in the burgeoning field of pastoral education.

At about the same time, Gilmour and Patricia O’Connell Killen edited a collection of memoirs called, Journeys in Ministry: Nine Memoirs form Around the World (1989). The memoirs were collected from IPS graduates in honor of the 25th anniversary of IPS. For Gilmour, memoir pulled together the essentials of what IPS embodied. At IPS, Gilmour often taught courses on religion and literature. In these, he always included a section on memoir and autobiography. He was struck especially by the power of memoir to evoke responses in the students. In his experience, memoir was more powerful than anything else he taught. This has led him to an ongoing interest in the power of memoir, of story, of narrative theology. Gilmour was one of the first to bring narrative theology into the religious education arena. In essence, asking people to tell their own story had been Gilmour’s research method in the work that was published as The Emerging Pastor (1986).

Gilmour’s work on memoir eventually resulted in The Wisdom of Memoir: Reading and Writing Life’s Sacred Texts (1997), a book that offered both an academic treatment of memoir and its relationship to the religious tradition and Gilmour’s reflections on exemplar memoirs from around the world to add flesh to his academic points. 

The pastoral leadership research grounded in memoir in turn fed Gilmour’s relationship with IPS. Although never the master gardener (i.e., Director) at IPS, he has pruned, trimmed, spread mulch, mowed, weeded, and been docent throughout its 48 year history. At the same time, it formed who he is, as an educator and researcher. From his standpoint, at least as early as the directorship of Jerome A. (Jerry) O’Leary, O.P., (1970 - 1982) Gilmour saw the best principles of religious education operationalized in the structure, curriculum, and pedagogy of IPS. From Gilmour’s perspective, this was an embodiment of what Catholic schooling is all about: the curriculum, pedagogy, working relationships, and teacher-student relationships, are all directed toward creating a community of Christians committed to Jesus’ mission. This nurtured in Gilmour the skill of shuttling between religious education theory and practice so that in every context he could suggest ways that an institution and its members can practice what they preach/teach. Thus the institution (e.g., school, parish, or diocese) becomes a model for the kind of life taught.

These three threads, pastoral leadership studies, memoir as theology/religious education, and institutional structure as inherently educative – for good or ill – are what Peter Gilmour brought to a collaboration with Mary Elsbernd, OSF, Ph.D., S.T.D. that resulted in 2004 in the INSPIRE Project, a collaboration between IPS, the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Lilly Endowment’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence Program. Elsbernd brought to the project an eschatological horizon as normative for all life but especially Church life (love & justice) and a degree in Organizational Development. Gilmour’s sense of how education for religious ends (for example parish team functioning) could be operationalized in the INSPIRE Project’s structure and functions, his commitment to adult models of professional and spiritual growth in pastoral ministry, and his understanding of the importance of memoir (telling one’s own story) to community (team) functioning were instrumental in crafting the initial grant. Lilly funded the project for eight years. INSPIRE’s task was to support Catholic parish leadership teams (pastor and other parish staff) in becoming more collaborative through education, consultation, and research.

Two additional threads need to be highlighted in recounting Gilmour’s research interests, though both are arguably extensions of his interests in memoir and literature. In 1993 he began attending the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which takes place every five years. He has not missed one since. As he began to study the world’s spiritual traditions, Gilmour saw the power of memoir to bring forth traces of the divine in contexts beyond Christianity. Second, in the early years of IPS, films were an important curricular component for the students. Gilmour was able to see the narrative parallels with literature and he witnessed the student body theologically reflect on the films. He later delved heavily into Jesus films.

From the late 1960s to the present, Gilmour has written often. In addition to the books mentioned above, Gilmour was a regular contributor to the journal Religious Education from 1990 to 2005, mostly on the relationships among narrative theology, religious education, spirituality and pastoral leadership. Gilmour nurtured the public appreciation of the relationship between theology, spirituality and the humanities as a columnist or regular contributor to U.S. Catholic, The Critic, Listening, and PACE throughout the 1990s. He has written teacher manuals for high school textbooks and several other resources for high school students.

Peter Gilmour retired from IPS in 2008 but continues to be connected in a variety of ways. In the summer of 2012 he undertook a project on the history of IPS that will serve to undergird its 50th Anniversary celebration in 2014. 

Contributions to Christian Education

            Peter Gilmour has had a subtle hand in shaping education for professional lay ministry in the Roman Catholic context for almost 50 years and in crafting Catholic religious education. In the 1960’s he was a layman in a world of Catholic priests and vowed brothers and sisters. Because he was able to keep a foot in a wider world, he was able to introduce new cultural dynamics to religious education. His sustained practice of shuttling back and forth between theory and practice in particular contexts, reflecting theologically on how a structure or institution is educative (for better or for worse), has influenced the development of theological and religious education in Catholic contexts. Thereby attending to lay pastoral leadership in the early 1980’s Gilmour was naming, and thereby shaping, the emerging field of pastoral leadership studies.

In his attention to narrative theology/memoir Gilmour’s contribution to the field of religious education has probably not yet seen the fullness of its implications. Author James Carroll says of Gilmour:

One of the great advances in contemporary Christian understanding came with the application of the idea of narrative to theology, taking the imaginative ordering of experience as an opening to transcendence. Peter Gilmour pioneered the extension of this insight from the narrative form in general to the particular manifestation of personal memoir, a genre of imaginative writing that is as old as St. Augustine, but that took on new cogency in the late 20th century. Literature was reinvigorated by the memoir form, and theology was challenged to engage with it anew. Through his inventive uses of memoir in his teaching, but especially through his influential book The Wisdom of Memoir, Peter showed how remembered human stories can offer traces of the divine. Indeed, the feel for memoir, as nurtured by Gilmour, illuminates the inner structure of scripture as well as the examined interior life of the devoted believer (J. Carroll, personal communication, July 9, 2012).

Interestingly, The Wisdom of Memoir seems to have had more impact outside the world of religious education than in. Patricia O’Connell Killen for example, reports that the book was especially powerful for the English professors with whom she shared it (P. O. Killen, personal communication, March, 2012).  

Standing at the intersection of the humanities (narrative, textual studies, memoir, film) and religious education, Gilmour brought the humanities to the field of religious education, but, perhaps more importantly, he brought the practices of theological reflection and the power of memoir to reveal the action of the divine in daily life to an audience outside the field of religious education. I was buoyed in my own work at the intersection of visual art and religious education by Gilmour’s attention to narrative through film. His work also empowered Catholic educators to demonstrate to their students that religion wasn’t separate from what was studied in their other courses.

 Dr. Peter Gilmour’s commitment to the power of memoir as a vehicle for spiritual growth and modeling suggests that he would agree with Dr. Samuel Johnson “that every man’s life might best be written by himself” (Boswell 2008, 19). As such, this biographer will give the subject the last word. When asked about his legacy is as a religious educator, Gilmour humbly articulated contributions to two aspects of religious education. First, he has been a voice that has called the field of religious education to transcend itself, to point toward evidence of the divine in all of reality, not just those aspects mediated through official channels (whose agendas tend toward parochialism). Second, he has been a voice for the significance of imagination in religious education. His prayer is that these trends continue.

Works Cited:

Boswell, J. (2008).  Life of Samuel Johnson. New York: Penguin Classics. 



Gilmour, P. and Lysik, D. A.  (1999). Now and at the Hour of our Death: important information concerning my medical treatment, finances, death and funeral (revised edition).  Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications.

Gilmour, P. (1998). Growing in Courage.  Winona: St. Mary’s Press.

_______. (1997). The Wisdom of Memoir: Reading and Writing Life’s Sacred Texts.  Winona: St. Mary’s Press.

Gilmour, P., Ahlstrom, M., and Tuzik, R. (1990). A Companion to Pastoral Care of the Sick.  Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications.

Gilmour, P. and Killen, P. O., eds. (1989). Journeys in Ministry: Nine Memoirs from Around the World.  Chicago: Loyola University Press.

Gilmour, P. (1989). Now and at the Hour of our Death. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications.

________. (1986). The Emerging Pastor.  Kansas City: Sheed and Ward.

________. (1978). Praying Together.  Winona: St. Mary's Press.

Gilmour, P., Giovannoni, R., Gorgo, W., Mortell,  J., and Will, G. (1972). I-Project: A Prospectus.  Chicago: St. Patrick High School.

Book Chapters


Gilmour, P. (2005). Preface. In Maher, M. J. S. The Educational Philosophy of the Catholic Hierarchy: A Review of Magisterial Statements Over the Last Century (pp. i-v). Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon Press.

_______. (1996). The splendor of Dakota; the geography of Veritatis. In Meister, FSC, M. F. (ed.) Charism and Identity (pp. 72-85) Landover, MD: Christian Brothers Conference. 

_______. (1995). The declaration: A personal memoir of this collective memoir.  In Meister, FSC, M. F. (ed.) The Declaration: Text and Context (pp. 62-80). Landover, MD: Christian Brothers Conference.

_______. (1993). Identity, narrative, and touching hearts.  In Meister, FSC, M. F. (ed.) Touching hearts (pp. 152-169).  Romeoville, IL: Christian Brothers Publications.

_______. (1991). Educational canons and religious fundamentalism: Obstacles to change. In Meister, FSC, M. F. (ed.) Challenged by Change (pp. 115-126). Romeoville, IL: Christian Brothers Publications. 

_______. (1989). A bar in Bangkok. In Gilmour, P and Killen P. O. (eds).  Journeys in ministry: Nine memoirs from around the world (pp. 1-13).  Chicago: Loyola University Press.

_______. (1988). One layman's viewpoint and vision. In Armstrong, CSC, P. (ed.) Who are my brothers? (pp. 127-136).  New York: Alba House.

_______. (1986). Introduction. In Gilmour S. C.   Pioneer settlers of Dane County Wisconsin:  John and Mary (Lunny) Campbell and their descendants (pp. v-vii).  Wisconsin: Joy Reisinger, 1986.

Monographs, Teacher Manuals, Pamphlets, and Study Guides

Gilmour, P. (2001, October). What do Catholics believe: An introduction to In good faith/De buena fe [Brochure]. Chicago: Claretian Publications.

________. (1996). Parish communities in transition [Brochure]. New Orleans: Loyola University New Orleans Pastoral Life Center.

________. (1989). Final wishes…life is changed not ended [Brochure].  Chicago: Archdiocese of Chicago, 1989.

________. (1981). Achieving social justice teacher manual. Dubuque: William C. Brown Company.

 ________. (1980). The emerging church teacher manual.  Dubuque: William C. Brown Company.    

 ________. (1978). The Jesus book teacher manual (extended ed.). Dubuque: William C. Brown Company. 

________. (1978). The Jesus book teacher manual (short ed.).  Dubuque: William C. Brown Company.

________. (1978). A guide for praying together.  Winona, MN: St. Mary's Press.

________. (1974). Project/discussion guide to ritual and life.  Winona, MN: St. Mary's Press, 1974

Gilmour, P. and Tully, M. J. (1966). Study the scriptures study guides.  Chicago: Argus Communications.


Gilmour, P. (2010, Spring). Eugene O’Neill’s encounter with the divine. The Joan and Bill Hank Center Magazine, 2 (1), 8.

_______. (2009, December). The film Son of Man. Journal of Adult Theological Education 6 (2), 153-163.

             _______. (2008). Narrative theology as revelation. Religious Education, 103(3), 290-292.

_______. (2005, Summer). Text and context: The Passion of the Christ and other Jesus films. Religious Education, 100 (3), 311-325.

_______. (2004, Fall). The culture of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Listening Journal, 39 (3), 487-497.

_______. (2004, Fall). Introduction. Listening Journal, 39 (3), 438-440.

_______. (2002). The role of vocation in conflictual religious education settings. 2002 Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education (APRRE) Proceedings, 373-379.

Gilmour, P., Garder, Z., Schmidt, S. and Miller, R. (2002, Spring). Book symposium: Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews by James Carroll. Religious Education, 97 (2), 184-197.

Gilmour, P. (2000, Winter) Spiritual borderland: Practicing more than a single religious tradition,” Listening Journal, 35 (1), 17-24.

_______. (2000, Autumn). The ambiguity of maybe. Stauros Notebook, 19 (3),.3-4.

_______. (2000, Winter). Ministry in the new millennium. Listening Journal, 35 (1), 3-4.

_______. (2000, Summer). Educating for particularity and pluralism. Religious Education, 95 (3), 231-232.

_______.  (2000, Spring). A post-Vatican II reading of A Canticle for Leibowicz. Listening Journal, 35 (2), 75-84.

_______. (2000, March). Global warming: The world’s religions challenge each other to repair the world. U.S. Catholic, 65 (5), 22-26.

_______. (1999, Spring). Spirituality and schooling. Religious Education, 94 (2), 136-138.

_______. (1998, Winter). Worlds of knowledge within the world of religious education: An interdisciplinary reality. Listening Journal, 33 (1), 22-31.

_______. (1998, Summer). The poetry, prophecy, and power of life’s sacred texts. Religious Education, 93 (3), 307-313.

_______.  (1997, Winter). Texts and contexts. Religious Education, 92 (1), 4-7.

_______.  (1997, Fall). Leadership and religion in the 21st century. The Journal of Leadership Studies, 4 (4), 33-43.

_______.  (1997, May). Father, son, and an unholy war. U.S. Catholic, 62 (5), pp. 27-31.

_______.  (1997, May). A baffled buyer’s guide to the good book. U.S. Catholic 62 (4), 15-21.

_______.  (1997, January). From anathema to zucchetto: A faith that speaks volumes. U.S. Catholic, 62 (1), 24-27.

_______.  (2006). Take me Out…. Liturgy, 21 (1), 51-53.

_______.  (1996, April). Portrait of a Woman. PACE 25, 27-30.

_______.  (1995, October). Mariette in Ecstasy. PACE 25, 34-36.

_______.   (1995, Fall). Paula. The Critic, 50 (1), 114-119.

_______. (1995, Summer) Writing as an act of faith: Peter Gilmour interviews Joseph Roccasalvo. The Critic, 49 (4), 56-71.

_______. (1995, May-June). Blackberry reflections and other memoirs. Praying 66,  4-12, 35-37.

_______. (1995, Spring). Monks, meaning, and metaphor: Peter Gilmour interviews Kathleen Norris."  The Critic, 49 (3), 38-47.

_______. (1995, Spring). Plains wisdom: Peter Gilmour interviews South Dakota poet Kathleen Norris."  The Heartland Journal, 16-17.

_______. (1995, April). The last year of the war. PACE 24, 29-31.

_______. (1995, February). The Night Visitor and other stories”  PACE 24, 33-37.

_______. (1995, Spring). Pastoral Studies in Contemporary Catholicism. American Catholic Issues Newsletter, 1-2.

Gilmour, P. (ed.). (1995, Spring). American Catholic Issues Newsletter.

Gilmour, P. (1994, December). Faithfulness and fiction: Beloved. PACE 24, 29-31. 

_______. (1994, Winter). True North. The Critic, 49 (2), 76-80.

_______. (1994, September-October). Memoir: A way to pray your experiences. Praying, 62, B.

_______. (1994, Spring). The healing dimensions of classic and contemporary texts. Religious Education, 89 (2), 194-204.

_______. (1994, Spring). Health and Illness in religious education: An introduction. Religious Education, 89 (2), 221-222.

_______. (1993, Winter). To teach: The journey of a teacher. The Critic, 48 (2), 95-99.

_______. (1993, Winter). The non-ordained pastor: A paradigm for future church leadership", Listening, 28 (1), 81-90.

_______. (1993, Winter). The critic in conversation: Bearing witness with Lawrence Thornton. The Critic, 47 (2), 84-94.

_______. (1993, Autumn). Ordinary time. The Critic, 48 (1), 75-78.

_______.  (1993, Summer). Days of obligation. The Critic, 47 (4), 71-75

_______. (1993, Spring). Keeper of the moon. The Critic, 47 (3), 78-82.

_______. (1993, February). Contemporary religious stories: Novels and short stories." PACE  22, 23-26.

_______. (1993, January). Autobiography and memoir as sacred story. PACE 22, 18-20

_______. (1992, December). Stories of religious traditions. PACE 22, 25-28.

_______. (1992, November). The use of narrative theology in religious education. PACE 22, 31-34.

_______. (1992, Fall). Mixed blessings. The Critic, 47 (1), 85-90.

_______. (1992, Summer). The last farmer. The Critic, 46 (4), 72-76.

_______. (1992, Spring). The road from Coorain. The Critic, 46 (3), 72-77.

_______. (1992, March-April). The Heartland interview: William Least Heat Moon. The Heartland Journal, 37, 10-11.

_______. (1992, Fall). Life narratives: Expressions of diverse spiritualites, Religious Education, 87 (4), 545-557.

_______. (1992, January and February). Catholic non-ordained pastors: A decade of difference. PACE 21 127-129, and 154-157.

_______. (1991, December 6). The people, no. Commonweal, CXVIII (21), 731.

             _______. (1991, November 22) 'Eucharistless' as Catholic word is useless." National Catholic Reporter, 28 (5), 2.

_______. (1991, October). John L. McKenzie. PACE 20, 2-3

_______. (1991, Summer). Remembering John L. McKenzie. The Critic, 45 (4), 18-21.

_______. (1987, June, July). Non ordained pastors. UPTURN, 3‑4.

_______. (1985, July/August). The emerging pastor.  Rural Roots, 1‑4.

_______. (1966, January). The Bible man. Today, 10-12.

_______. (1965, October). Vatican II: Great success or bitter disappointment? Today, 21-24.

_______. (1965, May). The dimensions of \cCheating. Today, 6-8.

_______. (1966, July to 2007, September). Odds and Ends [A monthly column]. U. S. Catholic.


Gilmour, P. (2010-2011). Stories of transformation: 25 videos of Loyola University Chicago faculty members speaking about their profession/vocation of teaching.  Chicago: Loyola University, 2010-2011.

Gilmour, P. and Schroeder, N. (1990). At the heart of the tradition. Chicago: Loyola University Instructional Design.

Book Reviews

Gilmour, P. (2007, Spring). [Review of Creating better features: Scenario planning as a tool for social creativity, by J. A. Ogilvy]. Journal of Religious Leadership, 6 (1), 147-150.

_______. (2006, November/December). [Review of Thomas Merton: I have seen what I was looking for: Selected spiritual writings of Thomas Merton, by A. B. Pennington (ed.)]. Emmanuel, 112 (6), 570-571.

_______. (2003, Fall). [Review of Heroic leadership: Best practices from a 450-year old company that changed the world by C. Lowney]. Journal of Religious Leadership, 2 (2), 225-227.

_______. (2003, Spring). [Review of Wisdom of the carpenter: 365 prayers and meditations of Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas,Lost Gospel Q, Secret Book of James, and the New Testament by R. Miller]. Religious Education, 98 (2), 272-273. 

_______. (2003, July/August). [Review of The Thomas Merton encyclopedia by W. H. Shannon, C. M. Bochen and P. F. O’Connell]. Emmanuel, 109 (4), 317-318.

_______. (2002, October). [Review of God Moments: Why faith really matters to a new generation by J. Langford]. Emmanuel, 108 (8), 508-509.

_______. (1999, Fall). [Review of After heaven: Spirituality in America since the 1950s by R. Wuthnow].  Religious Education, 94 (4), 471.

_______. (1998, January/February). [Review of Crystal and cross by B. G. Epperly]. Emmanuel, 104 (1), 63.

_______. (1996, December). [Review of Reconstructing Catholicism by R. Ludwig]. The Journal of Supervision and Training in Ministry, 17,  250-252.

_______. (1996, October). [Review of New directions in mission and evangelization 2 by J. A. Scherer and S. B. Bevans (eds.)]. Emmanuel, 102, (8), 508-509.

_______. (1995). [Review of The art of theological reflection by P. O. Killen and J. de Beer]. The Journal of Supervision and Training in Ministry, 16, 228-230.

_______. (1993, Winter), [Review of Ghost woman by L. Thornton]. The Heartland Journal, 39. 23.

_______. (1993, Late Summer). [Review of Paradise of the blind by D. T. Huong]. The Heartland Journal.

_______. (1992, Spring). [Review of Leadership in religious education by D. A. Bickimer]. The Living Light, 28 (3), 272-273.

_______. (1992, Spring). [Review of The promise of partnership by E. E. and J. D. Whitehead]. The Living Light, 28 (3), 273-275.

_______. (1991, May). [Review of The long haul by M. Horton]. The Heartland Journal.

_______. (1991, Spring). [Review of The church in the midst of creation by V. J. Donovan]. Spirituality Today, 43 (1), 83-85.

_______. (1991, March). [Review of Imagining Argentina by L. Thornton]. The Heartland Journal.

_______. (1990, Spring). [Review of Cardinal Bernardin by E. Kennedy], Spirituality Today.

_______. (1990, July/August). [Review of Nothing to declare: Memoirs of a woman traveling alone by M. Morris]. The Heartland Journal.

_______. (1989, Spring). [Review of Frederick Buechner novelist/theologian of the lost and found, by M. C. McCoy with C. S. McCoy]. Spirituality Today.

Reviews of Peter Gilmour’s publications:

The Emerging Pastor:

Walk, M. M. (1988, Winter) [Review of The emerging pastor by P. Gilmour]. Loyola Magazine, 15.

Tillman, W. M., Jr. (1990, Spring). Shorter Reviews Studies in Ministry. [Review of The emerging pastor by P. Gilmour].  Southwestern Journal of Theology, 32 (2), 79.  

(1986, August 29 and September 5). Pastors without collars series. [Review of The emerging pastor by P. Gilmour]. National Catholic Reporter.

Now and at the Hour of our Death: Instructions Concerning My Death and Funeral:

[Review of Now and at the hour of our death: Instructions concerning my death and funeral by P. Gilmour]. (1990, April 6).  National Catholic Reporter, April 6, 1990. 

Zimmerman, J. A. (2001, Fall). [Review of Now and at the hour of our death: Instructions concerning my death and funeral by P. Gilmour]. Liturgical Ministry, 10, 237-238.

[Review of Now and at the hour of our death: Instructions concerning my death and funeral by P. Gilmour]. (1999, Fall). The Living Light, 36 (1), 89.

Journeys in Ministry: Nine Memoirs from Around the World:

Donders, J. G. (1989, December 22). Salvation is not for the few, charisms abound. [Review of Journeys in ministry: Nine memoirs from around the world by P. Gilmour]. National Catholic Reporter, 15.

O’Hare, P. (1990, Winter) [Review of Journeys in ministry: Nine memoirs from around the world by P. Gilmour]. Spirituality Today, 42 (4), 371-373.

[Review of Journeys in ministry: Nine memoirs from around the world by P. Gilmour].(1990, Spring) Prism, a publication of the Division of Humanities, Pacific Lutheran University. 3 (2).

Coyne, R. F. (1991, September-October). [Review of Journeys in ministry: Nine memoirs from around the world by P. Gilmour]. Review for Religious, 792-793.

A Companion to Pastoral Care of the Sick:

A Help for the Minister of Care. (1990, November). [Review of A companion to pastoral care of the sick by P. Gilmour]. Eucharistic Minister, 80, 1-3.

Covino, P. F. X. (1990). Footnotes. [Review of A companion to pastoral care of the sick by P. Gilmour]. Pastoral Music.

Krawczyk, M. P. (1999, May). ). [Review of A companion to pastoral care of the sick by P. Gilmour] Emmanuel, 246-247.

The Wisdom of Memoir: Reading and Writing Life’s Sacred Texts:

[Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. (1997, November). Spiritual Book News, 40 (3).

Scott, K. (1997, November 7). [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. National Catholic Reporter.

Heffern, R. )1997, November-December). Examined Lives Worth Living. [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour].  Praying, 30-31.

Chaffee, OP, P. (1998, March-April). [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. Review for Religious, 213-214.

Book on memoir urges us to plumb the depths. (1998). [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. Creativity Connection (a publication of the Communications Department, University of Wisconsin), 34. 12.

Scott, K. (1998, February 1). A Reader’s Book Review. [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour].  Call To Action Chicagoland News, 2 (1), 3. 

Fennell, F. (1998, Fall). Living life to its fullness through little acts of Courage. [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. The Center (a publication of the Sheil Catholic Center, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL).

Burns, A. (1998, M/A). [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. Buena Vista INK.

Cram, R. H. (2000, Summer). [Review of The wisdom of memoir: Reading and writing life’s sacred texts by P. Gilmour]. Religious Education, 95 (3), 346-347.

Growing In Courage:

[Review of Growing in courage by P. Gilmour] (1998, Winter). The Living Light.

[Review of Growing in courage by P. Gilmour]. (1998, August 31). Publishers Weekly.

Rzepecki, A. (1998, December). [Review of Growing in courage by P. Gilmour]. Catholic Library World.

Excerpts from Publications

From The Wisdom of Memoir, Chapter 3:

The underlying perspective … is that secular memoir is sacred activity and expression. The Wisdom Tradition of the Scriptures provides a paradigm for understanding the place of the contemporary secular memoir in theology and spirituality (64).


So serious were the Hebrew people about keeping their religion healthily balanced that they incorporated texts into their canon of the Scriptures, the heart of their tradition, to remind them not to fall prey to religion’s tendency to institutionalize and parochialize. These books … act as ballast, preventing the priestly and the prophetic voices from scuttling the religious instincts of ordinary people (67).


While some theologians see memoir as an important source and manifestation of narrative theology, others view it as dangerous. On one end of the spectrum, Frederick Buechner, novelist and theologian, claims that “all theology, like all fiction, is at its heart autobiography, and that what a theologian is doing essentially is examining as honestly as he can the rough-and-tumble of his own experience with all its ups and downs, its mysteries and loose ends.[1]

            On the other end of the spectrum is James W. McClendon Jr., who in Biography as Theology claims that autobiography is almost sure to be self-deceptive. Although he admits that the biographer can make mistakes, “only the autobiographer is virtually sure to produce a self-deceived account. . . . Proponents of truth via autobiographical self-display [are] adrift in a fog of subjectivity.”[2]

            I gravitate more toward Buechner’s understanding of memoir as sacred story. Explicitly religious memoirs narrate the search for God overtly and employ theological language. An even larger body of implicitly religious memoirs do not specifically search for God, nor do they employ either abstract or denominational theological rhetoric. These narratives are not usually found in the religion section of a bookstore or library. Yet they represent an increasingly important and profound search for, location of, and articulation of the divine in life experience. They practice what twentieth century theologians Paul Tillich, a Protestant, and Karl Rahner, a Roman Catholic, articulate in their theologies: the sacred is best manifested through ordinary life experience (71).

[1] Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982), 1.

[2] James W. McClendon Jr., Biography as Theology: How Life Stories Can Remake Today’s Theology (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990), vi.


Gilmour, P. (1997). The Wisdom of Memoir: Reading and Writing Life’s Sacred Texts.  Winona: St. Mary’s Press.

The Wisdom of Memoir (1997) captures the essence of Gilmour’s argument for the memoir as sacred text. Using examples from the literary canon, he illustrates the characteristics that qualify memoir as sacred.

Gilmour, P. (1986). The Emerging Pastor.  Kansas City: Sheed and Ward.

In The Emerging Pastor (1986), Gilmour documents the advent of lay leadership in Roman Catholic parishes in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. He uses the narratives of several such lay pastoral leaders to illuminate the isolated instances of what would become trends in the decades to follow.

Gilmour, P.  (2005, Summer). Text and context: The Passion of the Christ and other Jesus films. Religious Education, 100 (3), 311-325.

Gilmour here uses the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ as an entry point for a multi-contextual analysis of Jesus films. The article pulls together his attention to narrative theology, scripture, and the Jesus film canon.

Author Information

Eileen Daily


Eileen M. Daily, JD, PhD, earned her doctorate in religion and education at Boston College in 2001. She succeeded Peter Gilmour as the Program Director for the Master of Arts in Religious Education at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago in 2008.