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James White, SJ

50 Years a Priest
Pastoral Minister


Father James White, SJ, was ordained a Jesuit priest on June 3, 1971 – 50 years ago.

Born in Kansas in 1937, he graduated from Rockhurst University in 1959 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He then served his country in the U.S. Army for two years and was a grade school teacher for a year before discerning that God was calling him to service as a Jesuit.

Father White began his Jesuit ministry at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., where he taught art and English from 1972 through 1989.

After a sabbatical, some additional studies and ministering as director of spiritual development for priests in Dodge City, Kansas, Fr. White was assigned to minister to priests in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas beginning in 1995. He remained in that role for 25 years.

Since 2010, he has served the Rockhurst Jesuit Community as a pastoral minister.


On Sept. 1, 1960, I became US55694911. Army. Drafted. Two-year hitch. On Sunday, Sept. 11, 1960,I was at Mass in the chapel at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Around the time of the consecration I heard in my head: “Will you be a priest?” I did not need ears to hear that. I immediately said “yes.” Before that, I had no intention of being a priest. I have learned since that that was a “consolation without cause” experience. The consolation was that I knew what the Father preferred; the consolation without cause – I had not asked to know. It was an invitation, not a command. Ignatius liked that kind of decision making.

On September 1, 1962, I became a Jesuit novice. Ordination was June 3, 1971. On June 3, 1972, I came to Rockhurst High to start the retreat program. For the next 17 years, I taught art – especially pottery.

Then, I went to further studies at Gonzaga in Spokane. I got a masters in Spirituality and did liturgical work around Spokane. Then I did studies at Guelph, Ontario, and made the Spiritual Exercises for the third time. The nine-month program ended with me giving the Spiritual Exercises to others. While I was at Guelph, I did liturgical work in that area.

Soon I was working in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. I did spiritual work and always liturgical work. I have been here for 25 years. I am the only Jesuit living and working in the state of Kansas. This is a good place to practice two of my hobbies: gardening and care of chickens. Lots of both.

The Father wanted to place me with his Son. The Holy Spirit keeps giving me homily inspiration. Sparks! The major accomplishment of my 50 years in the priesthood has been to grow in intimacy with Jesus.