Father Joseph James Fice, SJ, religion teacher at Jesuit high schools in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Phoenix and retreat director, died December 13, 2020, in a local hospital in San Jose, California, at the age of 82. He had been recently diagnosed with Covid-19. He was a Jesuit for 59 years and a priest for 48 years.
Fr. Fice was born in Los Angeles on March 9, 1938, the son of Peter Fice and Bernice Fazio Fice, both immigrants from Marsala, Sicily. He grew up in Monterey Park, California, attended Cantwell High School in Montebello, California, and graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in mathematics in 1961. He entered the Jesuit novitiate at Los Gatos in September of that year to begin studies for the priesthood.
Studies took him to Gonzaga University for a philosophy degree and the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley for his theological training. As a theological student, Fr. Fice was active in organizing anti-war protests and activities at the height of the Vietnam War and was active in the pro-life movement as well. He was ordained a priest in Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood on June 23, 1972.
Fr. Fice’s ministry included teaching philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, parish work in Sacramento and 26 years in the high school classroom as teacher of religious education. While teaching at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, he also served a term as rector of the community. He served as a retreat director at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos before taking up residence at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center.
In his later years, Fr. Fice was the community’s “Mr. Fix-it,” with his tool kit at hand. He took care of the antique clocks and curated the patio garden, waging constant war on the weeds. Fascinated by word origins, he could be counted on to research and report on whatever arcane subject came up at the table.
Fr. Fice is survived by his brothers, William, of Hacienda Heights, California, Thomas, of Las Vegas, Nevada, Paul, of Cedar City, Utah, and a cousin, Michael Rocklein, of Boise, Idaho. Funeral Masses at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center are currently not open to the public because of Covid-19 restrictions. To view Fr. Fice’s livestreamed funeral Mass, click here.