An early riser, Fr. Jim would attend daily morning mass as a child – not because he had to, “it wasn’t a chore he recalls”, but because he wanted to. He realizes not all people find it as easy, but thinks one of the reasons why he did is because for him (in a house full of siblings), it was a time of peacefulness and contemplation to get away from the stresses of something that may have been bothering him at the time, like worrying about taking an exam. For Fr. Jim, being in the presence of the Eucharist at Mass made him feel closer to God, and to Jesus -and he says, “I enjoyed that feeling and that experience. Probably more than just a feeling; just something I literally enjoyed doing.”
Perhaps then it’s no surprise that, Fr. Jim knew he wanted to become a priest at the moment he received the calling during his First Communion. He recalls, “I thought about being a priest from the time I made my First Communion. I felt a call at that time. I was very imbued early on with this love for Christ and love for the priesthood that it never left me. You know sometimes some people go through that, but by the time they get through high school, that is not something they want to do anymore. But that seed was planted in me May 8, 1937, and it never left me.”
Fr. Jim will often refer fondly to “his children”, which is usually and understandably a surprise to people that don’t know him – but as the years have gone by, Fr. Jim often forgets this and casually speaks of the foster children he has helped raise as if they were his own blood. The idea for a foster program started about 40 years ago. At the time there was a big problem in the inner-city Cleveland neighborhood with children being abused and hurt. It got to a point where the violence and crime in the area began leading the youth down a very dangerous and often irreversible path earlier and earlier into their adolescence. So one day Sister Maggie, a consecrated virgin, asked Fr. Jim if he would be open to taking in some foster children. He recalls, “there were too many of these kids being hurt, and perhaps we can help them in some way. So that’s how it began.” Through the years and his work at Little Brothers and Sisters of the Eucharist (formed by Sister Maggie and himself) and the Central City Ministry with the Poor, Fr. Jim and Sister Maggie have helped raise 14 children into adulthood.