A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. Jim King, SJ
February 27, 2014 – He might have been a Trappist monk. Or an architect (but that’s a story for another day). Ultimately, discernment for his religious vocation led Fr. Jim King to the Society of Jesus. And generations of alumni from Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio are glad it did.
The seeds were planted early, when Fr. King attended Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, and then John Carroll University in Cleveland. As he considered what he would do with his life, he was impressed with The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton’s autobiography and quest for faith as a Trappist monk.
“But I realized I wouldn’t last very long,” Fr. King laughs. “As Jesuits, we are called to be contemplatives in action – and I knew I wanted that action part as well as serious prayer. I’m still impressed with the tradition of the Trappists, but I knew it wasn’t for me.”
Most of the action in Fr. King’s years of service took place at Walsh Jesuit. He was there when the doors opened to students in 1965 and, for nearly 50 years, he engaged in activities including teaching theology, counseling students, directing the first alumni organization, serving as chaplain, and co-founding and moderating a student justice league.
“I loved it all,” he recalls, “especially teaching, and supporting students in their desire to serve others.”
Fr. King also had two sabbaticals (a full year in India and another in Africa) during which he worked to help better the lives of poor and marginalized people, “Both times I was told to discern whether I should come back to Walsh,” he recalls. “And while I was very involved ‘in the moment’ while abroad and didn’t miss the high school, I knew that was where I wanted to return when I was done.”
Today, Fr. King is missioned to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Milwaukee. He asked to move to this community instead of the Colombiere Center community in Clarkson, Michigan, where senior Jesuits from his province (Chicago-Detroit) usually live.
There were two reasons for the request: “Being in the city allows me to continue to volunteer with ministries in which I was involved at Walsh – like those that serve homeless people. I also have a remarkably huge family here.” (One of Fr. King’s sisters has 25 grandchildren; 21 live in the area. He also had a brother who was a Jesuit and has a sister who is a Sister of Humility of Mary in Cleveland.)
“Camillus has been a very welcoming community,” he says. “I know a few of the men here from my time in Africa, but most are new friends. It’s been fascinating to learn about their remarkable ministries. It’s been a wonderful life and I still have a lot to do.”
S P I R I T U A L I T Y
Fr. King offers Micah 6:8 as one of his favorite scriptural passages. “It tells us exactly what we are called to do,” he says. “Basically, it reads, ‘this is what Yahweh asks of you – only this: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.’ I think you can make the argument that it pretty much summarizes all of Christianity.”
You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. [Micah 6:8 NAB]