Fr. James P. Walsh, a Jesuit who divided his ministry between the missions in Belize and pastoral care in Colorado, died April 18, 2015, in St. Louis after a long illness. He was 80 years old, a Jesuit for 61 years and a priest for 48 years.
The Denver native attended public grammar school before enrolling at Regis Jesuit High from which he graduated in 1952. He entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, Mo., in August 1953.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and letters and an advanced degree in philosophy. As a young Jesuit in formation, he taught at St. John’s College in Belize. He studied theology at St. Mary’s (Kan.) College and was ordained on June 7, 1966. He did his training after ordination at Cushing, Okla., and took final vows on December 8, 1972.
His priestly ministry can be seen as divided between Belize (1968-82) and pastoral ministry, mainly in Colorado (1982-2004). Much of his ministry in Belize was in Corozal, first as associate pastor and then as pastor.
He then served as associate pastor or pastor at parishes in Denver, Pueblo, Aurora, and Springfield, Colo., before moving to Xavier Jesuit Center in Denver. In 2004, he was missioned to Fusz Pavilion, a care facility for Jesuits in St. Louis.
As a newly ordained priest, he went to the former Lynam Agricultural College in the Stann Creek Valley in Belize, a very challenging assignment. Very likely it was there that he developed his love for the hard-working farmers. When he moved to Corozal town, he was a zealous missionary to all of the small rural communities of Mestizo and Mayan people. He built a number of churches and encouraged the growth of Catholic schools.
In order to train village school teachers as religion teachers, he went to Morelia, Mexico, to recruit religious sisters, the Madrecitas Guadalupana, to come to Corozal. They are still a major religious force in northern Belize.
Ministering in Colorado, he used his Spanish to preach the word to those who might not have otherwise been able to hear it in their native language, with a special care for those in prisons or detention centers. Perhaps because his own path was not always smooth, he had a special concern for those on the margins and could show them great compassion.
His parents, Joseph Patrick Walsh and Ruth Madison Walsh, and his brother, Jesuit priest J. Patrick Walsh, preceded him in death. His sister, Mary Louise Day of Denver, survives him.
Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 23, 2015, followed by a funeral Mass at 7 p.m., both in the Loyola Room of Jesuit Hall in St. Louis. He will be buried Friday, April 24, 2015 at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.