Father Jim is a Cape Bretoner born on December 19th, 1933. He attended Constantine Catholic school, where a picture of that Roman Emperor was hung in a prominent place. His first contact with the Redemptorists was through Fr. Cameron MacDonald whose brother was married to Jim’s sister. He did three years at St. Mary’s College, Brockville, where this skin-and-bones kid put on the pounds as a result of the regular order of the day and from the substantial food that the College offered. He studied at St. Alphonsus Seminary from 1955 to 1957 before the seminary moved to the new Holy Redeemer College, Windsor. He was ordained in the chapel of Holy Redeemer on June 19th, 1950 by Bishop John C. Cody of London, the last class of Redemptorists that bishop Cody ordained.
He made his Second Novitiate at St. Ann’s in Griffintown, Montreal, under Fr. Edward Meyer and was appointed to the missions from St. Peter’s in Saint John, NB. He was teamed up with Father Mike MacIssac, a fellow Cape Bretoner, then living at Holy Redeemer in Charlottetown. At the end of this year Father Mike had a talk with Jim’s rector, Father Ray Fitzgerald, as to his future as a parish missionary. Father Mike, ever the kind confrere said: “His sermons are good, he keeps to time well, and he’s not afraid of visiting the school and the sick, but he’ll never make a missionary because he puts the people to sleep!”
Father Jim was subsequently on Vocation work followed by a short time preaching missions with Fr. Clare Johnson from St. Alphonsus in Whitbourne, NL. Here he quickly learned that the Newfie Bullet shot across Newfoundland in good enough time “so you could pick blueberries as she went’. After a sabbatical at Divine Word Institute in London, ON, Jim was named Rector and pastor of Holy Redeemer in Sudbury. He very much enjoyed the people and the place in his short term there before being asked to go to Toronto as Rector and Pastor of Assumption parish on Bathurst St. This was the time of the implementation of the directives of Vatican II. In Advent one year the Archbishop directed the priests to catechize the people about the coming introduction of Communion in the hand. So the priests at Assumption, took four Sundays to inform the people as to what this change meant and how to receive Communion in the hand. One long time parishioner, who was partly deaf, came up to Fr. Jim after the fourth Sunday and said: “You’ve told us about that for three Sundays in a row, now let’s get back to some rip roaring sermons!”
After a year of study in counselling at St. Paul’s in Ottawa Jim, stationed at Provincial House, took on a series of small missions and many retreats and helped with the computerizing of the finances. He most enjoyed his 17 summers in Muskoka, celebrating Mass in the small summer churches, often packed, where at one small church the people “hung in the windows” because there was no room inside. He also enjoyed his times with the Marriage Encounter team doing marriage preparation from St. John Fisher church in Brampton.
Fr Jim was Provincial Procurator (1994-2001) during the amalgamation of the two provinces. He started and oversaw production of Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions until 2002, winning an award for his significant contributions to Catholic Television. He organized the Millenium Project, a series of TV programmes about religious congregations for the year 2000. He has been Editor of the Co-Redemptorist Association since 1977 and Director of Archives since 1996. He remains a member of the Canadian Catholic Historical Association and the North American Chapter of the Institute of Redemptorist Historical Studies. He was the first Treasurer of the Catholic Archivist Group.
He considers himself fortunate and blessed to have lived in the times when the church was so full of hopeful new life.