The Rev. Gregory C. Hartley, a Jesuit priest and Loyola College chaplain who frequently counseled the sick and recovering alcoholics, died of a heart attack Tuesday at Ignatius House, his home on the college campus in North Baltimore. He was 56.
Born in Middle River and raised in Idlewylde, he was a 1966 Polytechnic Institute graduate and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Loyola College. He worked for several years as a state probation officer in Baltimore before entering the Jesuit order at Wernersville, Pa.
He studied at Fordham University, then taught at Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda. He completed a graduate degree in theology at Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., before his 1986 ordination into the Roman Catholic priesthood.
"Greg had a questioning mind," said the Rev. Eugene M. Geinzer, rector of the Ignatius House Jesuit Community. "It was said he was either going to become an atheist or a Jesuit."
From 1987 to 1997, Father Hartley taught courses in ethics and spirituality and chaired the religious studies department at Loyola High School in Towson.
He joined Loyola College's campus ministry staff in August 1998, after spending a sabbatical year at Haus St. Benedikt, a Zen training center in Wurzburg, Germany.
"Greg profoundly loved reading theology. He stayed up most nights until 2 a.m. reading the newest and the best," said Father Geinzer. "Greg became more and more interested in the relationships between Zen Buddhism and Christianity. He was radically a man of peace. He sought to understand how the great thought of Buddha related to the great thought of Jesus."
As a Loyola chaplain, he worked with couples who were preparing for marriage and was co-moderator of the school's Justice Club. He also worked with the sick.
"Greg was a person who liked to take care of people at the margins, people who were ignored or trampled upon," Father Geinzer said.
A recovering alcoholic, Father Hartley spoke at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and worked with Loyola students who were also in recovery.
"He said his alcoholism had been a grace for him," Father Geinzer said. "What seemed like a liability ultimately, in recovery, gave him strength. He was a very honest person."
In December, Father Hartley flew to India to spend a month in prayer at a mountaintop monastery, where he studied with a Jesuit master of prayer.
"He was thrilled by the experience," said his brother, Shawn Joseph Hartley of Baltimore. "He was a deeply spiritual person who tried to connect the dots in the great scheme of things. He was a free spirit."
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 1:30 p.m. today at Loyola's Alumni Memorial Chapel, 4501 N. Charles St.
In addition to his brother, Father Hartley is survived by another brother, Edward J. Hartley of Cardiff, Calif.; a sister, Kathleen Hartley of Glendale, Calif.; and nieces and nephews.