The twinkle in his eye let everyone know that he was not only enjoying
their company but was truly grateful
for the time he spent with them.
He often said: “I don’t try to change people.
I just accept them.”
Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. James E. O’Reilly, SJ, who died on January 5, 2018, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 91 years old. May he rest in peace.
Jim was born on June 12, 1926, in Toledo, Ohio. He entered the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus on June 10, 1944, at Milford, Ohio. He was ordained on June 19, 1957, at West Baden College in southern Indiana, and took final vows on August 15, 1977, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Before entering the Society, Jim graduated from Campion Jesuit High School (1944). As a Jesuit, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Latin from Loyola University Chicago (1948-1950). He studied philosophy and theology at West Baden College. Jim also earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from John Carroll University (1970).
During Regency, Jim taught English and math at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland (1951-1954). After finishing theology studies, he returned to St. Ignatius and spent twenty-two years there. In addition to teaching theology and being a counselor to the students, Jim was the director of the counseling program (1970-1974), president (1974-1979), and vice-president for alumni (1979-1980). He also was rector of the Jesuit community from 1970-1974. While president of St. Ignatius, Jim resisted moving the school to the suburbs. After his many years at St. Ignatius, Jim then taught and was rector at Walsh Jesuit High School (1980-1986). At the young age of 60, Jim responded to an invitation to help start a school in Africa. He spent two years in Africa helping to start — and also teaching at — Loyola Secondary School in Wau, Sudan.
Upon returning to the states, Jim was an assistant to the Colombiere Center superior (1988-1989) and then the coordinator of the Spirituality Center at Colombiere (1989-1990) before returning to his hometown, Toledo. He was a chaplain at St. Mary’s and St. Francis de Sales parishes and superior of St. Mary’s Jesuits (a.k.a. Birckhead Place).
In 1995, Jim moved to Detroit and began his long association with Loyola High School (which was founded in 1993) and St. Francis de Sales Parish (which became St. Peter Claver Catholic Community in 2005). He was pastor of St. Francis for twenty years (1995-2015) while also being a chaplain and student counselor at Loyola High School (1996-2015). In addition to all of these duties, Jim was acting president of Loyola High for one year (1995-1996) and superior of the Jesuit community (2005-2012). When the Loyola High Jesuit community closed in 2012, Jim took up residence in Lansing-Reilly Hall on the campus of the University of Detroit Mercy. Jim was an amazingly effective and beloved counselor at Loyola High School well into his 80s. In 2015 he moved to Colombiere Center to care for his health.
Jim’s smile and self-deprecation put everyone he encountered immediately at ease. When a person was in Jim’s presence, they knew that Jim cared for and respected them. The twinkle in his eye let everyone know that he was not only enjoying their company but was truly grateful for the time he spent with them. He often said: “I don’t try to change people. I just accept them.” Through his words and actions Jim showed others the way to a deeper encounter with his one true love: Jesus Christ.
Jim donated his body to science. Details for Jim’s memorial Mass will be forthcoming.