Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. James K. Serrick, SJ, who died May 6, 2022, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 91 years old. May he rest in peace.
Jim was born on April 22, 1931 in Defiance (near Toledo), Ohio. Jim was Jesuit educated throughout his life. He attended Gesu Parish and Gesu Catholic School, both in Toledo, before graduating from Campion Jesuit High School in 1949. While in high school, Jim was involved with the Sodality, the newspaper, and yearbook, and he involved in music in several capacities, participating in choir and the band and serving as a student organist. He entered the former Chicago Province on August 18, 1949, at the Milford Novitiate in Ohio. Jim was ordained on June 14, 1962, at West Baden College in Indiana and pronounced final vows at Colombiere Center on August 15, 1965.
While in the Society of Jesus, Jim earned licentiates in philosophy (1956) and Sacred Theology (1963) from West Baden College. Jim studied liturgy at the University of Notre Dame (1961–1962) in South Bend, Indiana, and the Institute of St. Anselm in Rome (1964–1965). Jim also earned a master’s degree in liturgy from the University of Notre Dame(1972).
During regency, Jim taught Latin at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati (1956–1959). After ordination and graduate studies—and because of his innate care for others and his ability to teach—Jim was missioned to be the socius to the master of novices at Colombiere Center (1965–1970). Jim next spent seven years teaching liturgy to ours at the Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago (1970–1977).
Jim then transitioned from teaching about liturgy to ministering in parishes. He served as associate pastor (1977–1980) and pastor (1980–1987) of Gesu Parish in Detroit. He then was pastor of the Detroit Urban Cluster (1987–1993), which was composed of St. Mary’s of Redford and Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parishes. In 1993, Jim began retreat ministry when he was missioned to Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he was a retreat director (1993–1995) and director of the retreat house (1995–2007).
Jim served generously in internal governance during his life. In addition to being the socius to the master of novices (1965–1970), he was superior of a Jesuit community for (a total of) almost two decades, serving at Gesu Rectory (1980–1987) and St. Mary’s Jesuit Residence in Detroit (1988–1990; 1992–1993); and Manresa Jesuit Retreat House Community (1994–2003).
Jim was the provincial assistant for pastoral ministry of the former Detroit Province (1993–1995 and 2007–2008) and of the former Chicago and Detroit Province (2008–2009). He served as the senior associate pastor of Gesu Parish in Detroit (2009–2013) before being missioned to community service at Colombiere Center in 2013. Jim worked in (and for) the Colombiere community until his death.
Jim loved Christ and the Society of Jesus. He was passionate about the liturgy and music. He was a hard, “behind the scenes” worker who did every action humbly and for the Lord. Jim did so much for others always quietly, in an understated way, and with a charming (and sometimes “smart ass”) smile.
Jim was very pastoral. He saw Jesus in everyone he met and dealt with. He was “of the people” and “for the people.” People were immediately taken in by Jim’s charm, good humor, self-deprecation, and infectious smile. Jim was approachable, “down-to-earth,” and humble. He enjoyed the world and wanted others to feel the same way. People often instantly fell in love with Jim because they recognized that he loved them. Many considered Jim to be a holy man.
Jim also was a gifted and much sought after liturgist. He knew the rubrics and was able to use them to help others to have a sacred space in which to encounter God. He was able to instruct and teach others—both in informal and classroom situations—about good liturgy. When he taught at the Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago in the 1970s, one of Jim’s lessons was about presiding. It began with many things on the altar (e.g. a rotary phone, a fan, various novels, plates and glasses, and other items). During the lesson, he used all of these items in a mock Mass to show how inappropriate (and ridiculous) they were on the altar. After the lesson, all understood what appropriate items should be on the altar.
Jim had a lot of energy which he gladly put into doing things for others. Jim was dependable and able to “get things done” in a humble and modest way. It has been reported that, when working in a parish with Fr. Jim Von Tobel, Von Tobel would come up with grand ideas and Serrick would have to implement these ideas.
Although Jim was a workhorse, he still found time to play and relax. When he had multiple jobs (which was often), he would at times tell the people at both places that he was at the other job when, in fact, he was not at either location (but rather was playing music on the organ or doing some other fun thing.) This practice led to a nickname for Jim: “The Artful Dodger.”
Jim was a gifted musician and loved playing church organs. He played music on the organ and also built—and restored—church organs. Not only did Jim consider music to be a gift from God, he truly found God in music. He believed that music helps people to praise God and that people should enjoy music because it is a gift from—and for—God.
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
7:00 p.m. (EDT)
9075 Big Lake Road
Clarkston, MI 48346
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
10:30 a.m. (EDT)
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