Jesuit Father James B. Malley died on June 23, 2015. He was born in 1921, in Beverley, Massachusetts, the son of James and Marguerite (Burns) O’Malley, but grew up in Newton, not far from the campus of Boston College. The family moved to Somersworth, New Hampshire, when Fr. Malley was 18.
Fr. Malley attended Boston Latin School for three years and, as he hoped to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, transferred to a science-oriented prep school in New Jersey for his fourth year. But he decided math and science weren’t his real strengths and instead entered Dartmouth College, where he excelled as a history major. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Fr. Malley joined the Navy reserve in January 1942.
He graduated from Dartmouth in December of that year and was immediately called to active duty as a “Ninety Day Wonder” commissioned officer, eventually being given command of a landing ship. In 1946 he was discharged and entered Harvard Law School. In 1949 he joined a Boston law firm but only for a year. In 1950 with the Korean conflict heating up he was called back to active duty, as an intelligence officer on the Navy commander-in-chief’s staff in the Pacific. He returned to the law two years later, joining a small firm in Manchester, New Hampshire. He made partner and enjoyed his work, but kept thinking that he ought to explore the idea of a religious vocation. A diocesan priest in his parish steered him to the Jesuits.
Fr. Malley entered the novitiate at Wernersville in 1957. He studied philosophy at Weston (1958- 1960), spent a year of regency helping with legal issues in the office of the financial vice president at Boston College, then proceeded to theology studies at Woodstock (1961-1965). He was ordained a priest at Weston in 1964. Pope Paul VI had recently asked religious orders to send members to Latin America and Fr. Malley volunteered, resulting in his assignment to the nascent New England mission in Brazil. After language studies and some time with another New England Jesuit, Fr. Dennis Brown, exploring where they should focus their mission efforts, they settled in São Salvador in the state of Bahia, in a poor slum area built on a tidal march where garbage served to build up solid land. He spent five years there, part of the time as superior of the mission.
He returned to the U.S. in 1971, spent a year reading theology at Weston in Cambridge, then did tertianship in Mexico. In 1973 he joined the ecumenical campus ministry program at Georgetown Law Center. In 1981 he moved to the Boston College Law School, where, until 1999, he served in various capacities, as student counselor, assistant dean, and adjunct professor. He interrupted his years at BC to serve as executive secretary at the Jesuit Conference, in Washington (1984-1988).
After a few years helping in administrative jobs within the BC Jesuit Community and doing part-time ministry in nearby nursing homes and Boston-area prisons, Fr. Malley moved to Campion Center where he helped in similar ways until his health no longer permitted much activity. His last years were burdened with illness and often pain. It was a blessing that he slipped away peacefully on June 23, 2015.