Jesuit Father James W. Reites died unexpectedly in his sleep on April 16, 2016. He was 78 years old.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana on Oct. 26, 1937, Fr. Reites entered the Society of Jesus at Los Gatos, California on Sept. 7, 1960. He studied engineering, math, vocal and choral music, as well as classics, humanities, philosophy and theology, earning degrees from Loyola University of Los Angeles, Immaculate Heart College, Santa Clara University and St. Louis University. He taught religious studies at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco from 1966-1968, during which time he also moderated the music program.
He was ordained a priest at Blessed Sacrament Church, Hollywood, California on June 11, 1971. He earned his STL in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and completed his STD at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. His doctoral work centered on St. Ignatius’ relationships with non-Christians, particularly the Jewish people. He pronounced his final vows as a Jesuit in 1981.
He joined the Santa Clara University faculty in 1975. From 1999-2001, Fr. Reites took a short leave from Santa Clara University to serve as Assistant Novice Master at the Jesuit Novitiate in Culver City, California, where he trained young Jesuits beginning their spiritual formation. For many years Father Reites was the California representative to the National Jesuit Advisory Board on Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism. Most recently, he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose.
Fr. Reites’ apostolic home was Santa Clara University. A beloved member of many, varied communities at Santa Clara for the past 41 years, he served on the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies where he was associate professor and former department chair. He was the founding faculty director of the Xavier Residential Learning Community, living with students and working with them to develop habits of meaningful global solidarity. For more than 10 years, Fr. Reites led various student immersion trips to Mexico and El Salvador.
Additionally, he devoted much time and energy to the School of Engineering, where he was a tireless and stalwart adviser to the University’s three teams of competitors in the national Solar Decathlon. Most recently, he had served as adviser to students in the Tiny House competition. His work on the Solar Decathlon was honored in an NBC story segment, “Bay Area Proud,” which chronicled his path to becoming a Jesuit and his lifelong twin loves of theology and science.