Father James R. Shea, SJ, 42, was born near Chicago and raised with his brother by their parents, Ruth (Wooster) and Richard Shea, in Skokie, Ill. His faith was strongly influenced by his mother, a cradle Catholic, and father, a Catholic convert. After graduating from Skokie’s Niles North High School, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in English from Loyola University Chicago. There, he sought out courses taught by Jesuits, despite warnings about their tough grading and the heavy workload they assigned. These Jesuits he met in college sowed the seed of his vocation. After graduating, Fr. Shea spent a year living in community and volunteering with the Passionists at a social service agency for people with HIV/AIDS in Detroit. Later he worked in Chicago with Misericordia, a home for people with developmental and physical disabilities. Discernment of the priesthood led him back to the Jesuits, and he entered the Society in 2004.
Father Shea received a master’s degree in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago and a Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. His time as a Jesuit has also involved teaching English and helping with Kairos retreats at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago and serving as a deacon and confirmation class teacher at Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Dorchester, Mass. He will continue theology studies at Boston College.
I have experienced God’s love and care through so many people who have touched my life. That love began with my family, who have loved me and sustained me from the first day of my life. It has continued with my friends, who accepted me as I was and loved me anyway. God’s guidance was also given to me through so many good teachers, especially Jesuit teachers at Loyola University Chicago, who nurtured my vocation.
I am especially grateful for the love and care that has accompanied me throughout my formation as a Jesuit. There are not words to express my gratitude to everyone who took me as I was and with patience and care showed me the way forward. I have been thanking God for all of you in my prayers, and I hope those prayers for you will only continue as I enter into the priesthood!