Jesuit Father James V. Veltrie died March 15, 2015, in St. Louis after 62 years as a Jesuit. He was 80 and had been a priest for 49 years.
Born in Denver on Oct. 20, 1934, he attended St. Catherine’s Grammar School and Regis Jesuit High, graduating in 1952. He entered the Society at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, Missouri, on Aug. 17, 1952. After first vows and juniorate studies at Florissant, his philosophy studies were at Fusz Memorial and he earned a B.A. in philosophy and letters. He also received an M.A. in speech from Saint Louis University. For regency, he taught at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri (1960-62). After studying theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas, he was ordained on June 9, 1965. His tertianship was at St. Joseph Hall in Decatur, Illinois. He pronounced his final vows on Sept. 10, 1978.
His early ministry was as a high school teacher of communication arts at Rockhurst High, where he worked from 1967-79, the last six years serving as rector of the community. He was also a counselor to the students and in many ways, counseling was to be his major thrust and influence. He taught for one year at Cardinal Ritter High School in St. Louis (1979-80). Following that he was part of the formation team at Fusz Memorial and served as campus minister at the Law School of Saint Louis University; this last ministry continued for many years. He was Missouri Province Vocation Director from 1981-87, while continuing his presence at Fusz and in campus ministry at SLU. In 1986 he was made assistant rector at Fusz, becoming superior of scholastics from 1987 until 1990. After a sabbatical, he returned to Saint Louis University, working again in campus ministry (1991-98) and since 1998 as assistant to the director of undergraduate admissions.
Known for his kindness and gentleness, Fr. Veltrie’s background in speech and drama laid a foundation for a lifetime of effective communication — he was a careful and compassionate listener and very effective in preaching the word. He was admired by his brother Jesuits as an understanding, enthusiastic and creative superior, and his positive influence on younger Jesuits propelled him into a number of important roles in Jesuit formation, especially at Fusz as spiritual director and later superior of scholastics. As vocation director (1981-87) he did much to create a structured program that others were able to build on. As chaplain at the Saint Louis University Law School, he played a crucial role in helping many students over the years survive a stressful program. His final ministry in the SLU admissions office was a kind of echo of his work as vocation director as he helped guide potential students toward the best possible educational setting for them. In all of this, he showed great prayerfulness, sensitivity and deep commitment to those on the margins.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Frank M. Veltrie and Rose Cupelli Veltrie and his brother Frank Veltrie, sister Rosemarie De Luca and brother-in-law Joseph De Luca. He is survived by his sister-in-law Jeanette Veltrie, nephews Frank and Chris Veltrie and nieces Jeanne Ellis and Andrea De Luca.
Memorial gifts may be made to the USA Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus at 4511 West Pine Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108 or through this website.