James E. Von Tobel
Fr. James E. Von Tobel, SJ
Jim's care and concern for others was omnipresent and done with great wisdom, humility, and humor.
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James E. Von Tobel

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. James E. Von Tobel, SJ, who died on Friday, September 23, 2016, at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich. He was 80 years old, a Jesuit for 62 years, and a priest for 49 years. 

Jim was born on March 31, 1936, in Detroit. Before entering the Society, he graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1954. He entered the Society of Jesus on September 1, 1954, at the Milford Novitiate in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained a priest on June 14, 1967, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Mich. Jim professed final vows on August 15, 1973, at the Loyola House Novitiate in Berkeley, Mich.

Jim — known by many as "VT" — was a wonderful Jesuit: available and easily mission-able. He was always willing to go where the need was greatest. Jim spent much of his life caring for both Jesuits and parishioners. His care and concern for others was omnipresent and done with great wisdom, humility, and humor. This is why he was so often missioned to internal governance in the Society and to pastoral ministry in parishes. He was a great listener who made people feel comfortable and at ease through his good humor and infectious (not to mention LOUD) laughter. He loved engaging people around the table — whether going to a good restaurant or cooking up a not-so-small feast. He brought people to God through his homilies and at the altar in the many parishes in which he ministered. He was present to the people of God at the major events in their lives: marriages, births, anniversaries, and deaths. Jim will be missed by many, especially a close group of Jesuit brothers whose friendship spans decades.

As a Jesuit, Jim earned a bachelor's degree in 1959 and a master's degree in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago in 1965. He also earned a master's degree in theology from Loyola University in 1968. Jim spent his regency teaching Latin at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland (1961–64). After his ordination, Jim taught Latin and religion at St. John's Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio, for a year, before being called into service for his brother Jesuits at Colombiere Center.  
At Colombiere, Jim was minister (1969–70) and socius to the novice master (1970–71). In 1971, he helped move the novitiate to Berkeley, Mich. He remained socius to the novice master until 1974. In addition to this job, he was the prefect of studies for the Detroit Province (1970-1973) and the Detroit Province's vocation director (1971–75). Since he had a bit of extra time, he taught theology to the novices during the 1972–73 academic year. Jim moved to Cleveland in 1974, where he was the director of religious formation (1974–75) and then principal of Saint Ignatius High School (1975–77).  
After a well-deserved sabbatical, Jim was the associate pastor at Gesu Catholic  Church in Detroit and the Detroit provincial assistant for pastoral ministry (1978–81). In 1981, Jim moved to Marquette in the upper peninsula of Michigan. There, he was pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish and superior of the Jesuit community. In 1984, he became the provincial assistant for pastoral ministry (1984–93). Jim took on the added duties of socius in 1993. He was socius to Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, (1986–89) and Fr. Joe Daoust, SJ (1989–93). Jim was also the provincial assistant for formation from 1990 to 1993. After a few months sabbatical, Jim moved to Colombiere and was the superior and director of Colombiere Center (1994–99).
In 2000 Jim returned to parish life and, except for a couple of years, stayed in that ministry until he died. He was pastor of Church of the Gesu in University Heights, Ohio, from 2000 to 2006, in addition to being superior of the Jesuit community from 2000 to 2002. He was then asked to return to the Detroit Province Office, where he was the provincial assistant for advancement (2007–09). Jim then spent many years "subbing" for pastors while they took a vacation or sabbatical, or while the parish was in transition. He provided this wonderful service in the Gaylord, Mich. (2006–07 and 2013-2015) and Winona, Minn. (2009–13) Dioceses. In 2015, Jim was asked to be the acting pastor of Church of the Gesu in University Heights. He intended to end his term in November 2016.  
Earlier in his life, Jim was an excellent racquetball player. Throughout his life, he also was an avid golfer. Jim was getting ready to go golfing when he collapsed suddenly at Villa Marquette in Omena, Mich., one of his favorite places on earth. He died in Munson Medical Center.

A paragraph from the worship aid for Jim's farewell Mass as pastor at Gesu Parish in 2006 sums up his life:

Father Von Tobel suggests that his experience is similar to that of a utility player in sports: not a superstar (though we might disagree), but one who can handle many responsibilities adequately, thus extending his career and enhancing his service to his community. Father Von Tobel has provided many years of service to the Church community and the Jesuit community. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 
2–5 p.m.  
Gesu Church - Marian Chapel 
2470 Miramar Blvd. 
University Heights, OH 44118-3821

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 
7 p.m. 
Gesu Church 
2470 Miramar Blvd. 
University Heights, OH 44118-3821 
Note: While the Funeral Mass is occurring at Gesu, a wake service will take place at Colombiere Center

Thursday, September 29, 2016 
11:15 a.m. 
Colombiere Center 
9075 Big Lake Rd. 
Clarkston, MI 48346-1015 

In Memoriam
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September 26, 20168:18 PM
Jim was my first cousin. We grew up together as my mother and his mother were sisters. My parents were farmers in Macomb County and Jim spent many Summer's with us. We would often laugh about the hard and good times we had as kids as we were both born in 1936. We also did golf together and had a lot of fun. I sure will miss him as he was the greatest. May he rest in peace. God bless him. – Virginia Karolak

April 17, 20171:10 PM
Father Von Tobel filled in at our small parish (Sts. Peter and Paul, Mazeppa MN) in 2011 when our pastor passed away at a young age from ALS. He was beloved by all, and we begged him to find a way to stay. He had a great appreciation for the symbolism of the liturgies of Holy Week, and helped SPP establish traditions that we continue to follow today. He even contacted me during Holy Week a few years ago while preparing for Truduum on his new parish. What a thoughtful, kind, and generous man. Henry Schultz – Henry Schultz

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