Dec. 3, 2018 - Fr. D. James French SJ, was called to eternal life on Dec. 2, 2018. Fr. French died at Murray-Weigel Hall, Bronx, N.Y. He was born on Feb. 6, 1940, in Buffalo, N.Y., entered the Society of Jesus at Bellarmine College, Plattsburgh, N.Y., on July 30, 1962, and was ordained on May 25, 1974, in Rochester, N.Y. He pronounced his final vows at Canisius High School, Buffalo, N.Y., on Aug. 15, 1986.
Fr. Donald James French, SJ, always called Jim, was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 6, 1940. He was the child of Donald and Lorraine (Whalen) French. After his primary education he attended Canisius High School, where he met the Jesuits. After graduation from Canisius in 1958, Fr. French studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
It was in 1962 that Fr. French entered the Society of Jesus at Bellarmine College, the Jesuit Novitiate in Plattsburgh, N.Y. After two years he went to Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass., for one year of collegiate studies before moving to Loyola Seminary in Shrub Oak, N.Y., for his philosophical studies.
From 1968-1971, Fr. French taught Latin and music at Brooklyn Prep and then went to Woodstock College in Maryland to study theology (1971-1975). He was ordained on May 25, 1974, in Rochester, N.Y., by Bishop Joseph Hogan.
After theology, Fr. French returned to Buffalo to teach music and theology for the next 13 years at his alma mater, Canisius High School (1975-1988). He also served as assistant to the superior of the community there.
Fr. French then moved to New York City, where he spent five years as chaplain, and teacher of theology at Regis High School. Then, in 1993 he was appointed rector of the Jesuit Community at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J. For the next six years, in addition to being rector, Fr. French taught music, Latin and religion in the high school, and also did pastoral ministry in St. Peter’s Parish.
In 1999 he began residence at America House in Manhattan, where he became part of the provincial staff. There he served as the assistant to the provincial for pastoral ministry and formation. In 2001, he became provincial assistant for formation for both the New York and Maryland Provinces. He served in that capacity until 2004.
Fr. French then moved to Syracuse, N.Y., where he was the socius to the master of novices for the next two years. His next assignment in 2006 was as pastor of St. Anthony’s Church and superior of the Jesuit Community in Oceanside, Long Island, where he served for the next six years.
In 2012, he made yet another move to Ciszek Hall in the Bronx, where for three years he was assistant to the rector and minister of the Jesuit Community. Because of failing eyesight, he came to Murray-Weigel Hall in 2015, where he served as assistant to the superior. He also helped many who sought spiritual direction, and he remained active in giving and directing retreats, including the 30-day retreat for tertians.
After a very short illness Fr. French died at Murray-Weigel Hall. In his last days he greatly appreciated the visits of his friends, and he especially took comfort in the prayers offered in his room. Speaking was most difficult for him at the end, but he would always say “thank you” for the slightest kindness. May he now enjoy the company of the Lord he served so well.