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Jesse James’ cousin, Rev. James Burns Malley S.J., recently celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a Jesuit priest on June 18, 2014.
Ordained into the Catholic priesthood on June 18, 1964, Fr. Jim has served his vocation faithfully for fifty years. His calling, however, did not come easy to him. When it did, his call to serve the Lord was not an easy ride. Like his infamous cousin Jesse James, Fr. Jim soon found himself the target of military and politicians alike, who perceived his good works as a direct challenge to their political regime.
Fr. Jim’s story is amply told in a recent biographical history of the Jesse James family, Jesse James Soul Liberty. He first aspired to a naval career, but Jim found his math and science skills did not measure up. Attending Dartmouth, Jim’s college thesis won the Jones History Prize. His graduation with “Highest Distinction in History” earned him entry to Harvard Law School, after which he joined a law firm in Boston, not too far from his New Hampshire home.
Fr. Jim’s military service found him on the staff of a Navy Admiral as an intelligence officer, not too unlike his first cousin Donald James Baumel who was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, nor unlike Jim’s great-grandfather John M. James who was a spy for George Washington in the American Revolution.
When Jim was ordained and joined the Jesuit order, he answered the call of the Second Vatican Council. Committed to social change, Jim went to Brazil. There he found an active Catholic presence, but he also met a culture where “the unchurched” were deeply committed in their religion, but not necessarily their practice, particularly among the wealthy and the military.
Working side by side with the Peace Corps, Catholics, Protestants, and Marxists, Fr. Jim laid water pipes and provided running water for the poor. Jim found himself spied upon and branded a Communist priest. Providing food for the hungry, he was accused of “delaying the revolution.”
His reassignment back home landed him at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. Nearing retirement, he was relocated to Boston College in a ministerial service to students, faculty, and staff. Today, he resides in a home for retired Jesuits, where this past year he took particular delight in the election of his fellow Jesuit from South America, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was elected Pope Francis I.
James Burns Malley
. James Francis Malley & Marguerite Hazel Burns
.. Edward Frederick Burns & Mary Louisa James
… Drury Woodson James and Mary Louisa Dunn
…. John M. James & Mary Poor