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In Memoriam

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of  Fr. James F. Riley, SJ, who died on January 20, 2021, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 75 years old. May he rest in peace.

Jim is survived by his nieces and nephews: Thomas P. Riley, Michael G. Riley, J. Norman Riley, Patrick G. Riley, Jane C. Riley, Daniel J. Riley, Margaret M. McCarthy, James P. Riley, John Offerman, Bill Offerman, Therese Offerman, Mary Moore, and Ted Offerman. He is also survived by many grand nieces and nephews.

Jim is preceded in death by his brothers (Thomas N. Riley and Fr. J. Norman Riley), his sister (Patricia Offerman), his niece (Brigid Kelleher), and his nephew (Garrett Offerman).

Jim was born on July 17, 1945, in Cleveland. He entered the Detroit Province on August 20, 1963, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. Jim was ordained on June 1, 1974, at St. Patrick’s Church in Cleveland, and he pronounced final vows at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy on December 1, 1979.

Before entering the Society of Jesus, Jim graduated from Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. While in the Society, he earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Latin from the University of Detroit (1967), a master’s degree in English (1973) and a master’s of divinity (1975) from Loyola University Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree of sacred theology (S.T.B) from Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago (1974). In 1988 Jim earned a licentiate in xanon law (J.C.L.) degree from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

During regency, Jim taught English at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1969-1971). After ordination, he returned to U of D High where he taught English and was the director of admissions (1974-1976); served as the academic assistant principal and taught Latin (1976-1978), and was the treasurer and superintendent of buildings and maintenance (1979-1980). Jim was then asked to use his administrative skills for internal governance and was socius to two provincials: Frs. Mike Lavelle (1980-1983) and Howard Gray (1983-1986). In addition, he was the coordinator of secondary education for the former Detroit Province (1982-1986).

After earning his canon law degree, Jim was vice president of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (1989-1991) before becoming the director of Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (1991-1995). He spent a year in the Jesuit Curia in Rome as the assistant Procurator General of the Society before becoming the director of Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma, Ohio.

After a well-earned sabbatical, Jim was missioned (again) to be the socius to two Detroit Province provincials: Frs. Bob Scullin (2001-2008) and Tim Kesicki (August 2008 – December 2009). He also was the Detroit provincial assistant for retreat ministry (2005-2007). When Fr. Kesicki became the provincial of the Chicago and Detroit Provinces in January 2010, Jim moved to Chicago where he was a consultor to the provincial regarding canonical matters and assisted the provincial with on-going projects (2010-2012). Jim then returned to his alma mater, Saint Ignatius High School, where he was a special assistant to the president (2012-2013) and superior of the community (2013-2014). He moved back to Detroit and was a special assistant to the president of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and minister of the community (2014-2016) before moving to Colombiere Center as an assistant to the superior.

Jim was a devoted priest and man of prayer. His love of Christ and the Society of Jesus was evident in his preaching and his interaction with others. Jim’s keen, analytical mind helped him to understand and express the “heart of the matter” or the core issue at hand. This understanding informed his interpretation of canon law—especially as it related to Jesuits and the Society of Jesus. Jim’s comprehension of the essentials—and knowledge of the English language—was clearly evident in his writing and preaching.

Jim was detail-oriented, attentive to facts, and had great administrative skills (which were reasons he was socius to four provincials!), but always put cura personalis first, no matter the situation. This “care of the person” was especially evident when dealing with issues in canon law as Jim saw the law always at the service of the Church and the people of God, interpreting and applying canon law to each situation or circumstance.

Jim was a good community member who engaged in and fostered community. He was present to others during socials, dinners, or sitting in the rec room. Often, he would make popcorn or his famous “Riley burgers” for community members. Jim was an avid reader—he loved mystery novels and action thrillers—and was able to talk about many topics. Jim had a sly, dry, witty sense of humor and people did not always know when (or if) he was joking. But, at times, his impish grin or inviting smile clued others to the jest. 

Jim dealt with many hardships and internal demons over the years. His experience with these issues helped him to be compassionate with others and offer sound advice. People often sought out Jim’s guidance and consult because he was grounded, steady, and balanced.


Note: Due to COVID-19, the visitation and funeral are for Jim’s community only. Both can be viewed on the Colombiere Center’s YouTube Channel.


Sunday, January 31, 2021
7:00 p.m. (EST)
Colombiere Center


Monday, February 1, 2021
10:45 a.m. (EST)