At the end of the summer, and fittingly on the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rev. James Stormes, S.J., started his tenure as the new rector of the Holy Cross Jesuit community. Fr. Stormes came to the College from Nairobi, Kenya, where he taught at Hekima University College, and previously served as the provincial of the Maryland Province. In his new role as rector, Fr. Stormes is responsible for the care of the Jesuits and will also be working closely with the Nativity School in Worcester.
What has the transition from Nairobi to Worcester been like?
The transition has not been difficult, at least not yet. I had been in Kenya for four years, but I had returned to the U.S. twice, so I felt like I had kept in touch. The other transition has been to Holy Cross, since I have not been here since I was an undergraduate in 1965. Getting to know the community here has taken some time—a learning curve something like climbing Mount St. James, especially since, as rector, there were a number of events at the beginning of the year in which I was both welcoming people and being welcomed. On the other hand, that made it easy to meet many people quickly.
What are your main responsibilities as the rector of the Jesuit community at Holy Cross?
I am responsible for the care of the Jesuits here and for the overall administration of the Jesuit community. Given the good work done by my predecessors, that has not been a difficult job so far. In addition, the Jesuits have a mission to support the work of the College, as well as other apostolic works in Worcester, especially the Nativity School. Part of my job is to coordinate and facilitate this mission. One of the ways we do that is by providing hospitality and a gathering place for activities that we share with our colleagues and students. Ciampi Hall is a great resource that makes that service possible.
What are some methods or experiences from your past that you are employing in your new work?
I am an economist and, in addition to being rector, I hope to be teaching and doing research in economic development, especially in Africa. Having a balance between that kind of professional work with my work as rector is something that I have learned in previous assignments, and I hope each side will support the other here as well.
I have worked as a Jesuit superior at the local level before, but also as provincial superior and staff to national and international Jesuit organizations. These experiences will help me to connect Holy Cross with the wider work of the Society.
Did you have one specific moment that called you to your vocation?
I began thinking about a vocation to the priesthood when I was in high school, but it was while I was at Holy Cross that it became clear. I was in my second year here and for some reason—perhaps the Holy Spirit—I felt like I needed to make a decision at that time. One of the chaplains here at the time, Rev. Robert Lindsay S.J., was very helpful in seeing that, despite many doubts and questions, including those of my classmates, I really did feel called to become a priest. But Fr. Lindsay’s help also showed me that that priesthood for me would be best lived out in the Society of Jesus. I left Holy Cross for the Jesuit Novitiate, not ever imagining that I would return as the Jesuit rector 50 years later.
What excites you most about working at Holy Cross?
The potential for world-changing leadership and service of the students and alumni of Holy Cross. That may sound a little too grand, but I have seen the importance of the perspective and values of leaders in all areas of society—business, government, civil society. Having a humanistic, holistic view affects the ways all those powerful institutions function in very positive ways. The effect that Pope Francis has had on the Roman Catholic Church is a good example. The Church continues to be the Church, but now with a somewhat different emphasis and focus that is having such a strong effect within and beyond the Church itself. Holy Cross students and alumni will be in positions of leadership that can have similar effects wherever they are.
It is also a delight to be able to serve as a priest here in direct pastoral ministry, including celebrating Mass and directing retreats, and I look forward to the possibility of teaching. Most of all, of course, is living and working with the Jesuits here—they have been most welcoming and I am delighted to be able to do my part as rector to return the favor.
When you’re not working, where can you be found?
When I am not worrying about the Red Sox, I can be found watching the women’s volleyball team, and perhaps other teams as the seasons progress. I can be seen getting some exercise by “wogging” — a combination of jogging and walking—up and down Mount St. James. Classical music is a great relaxation for me and I hope to explore the concerts and performances in the area. I enjoy seeing good movies in movie theaters—not so much on the smaller screens. And I have the Jesuit vice of having too many books, loving reading but never getting to all the books I would like. ■
—Grainne Fitzpatrick ‘17