Father James Jeffrey dies May 28: Que en paz descanse (May he rest in peace)

Father James Jeffrey, ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., who served in the Diocese of Belleville since his retirement from ministry in the Diocese of Fargo in 1999, died May 28 in Belleville. He was 83.

Father Jeffrey moved to Belleville to be near his sister and eventually moved to the Hincke-Sense Residence for Retired Priests in Belleville.

With a continuing passion to be involved with service to the people of God, especially of Hispanic/Latino heritage, Father Jeffrey quickly became an integral member of the Hispanic Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Father Eugene Neff said. “While he primarily served the Hispanic population at Damiansville in St. Damian’s Parish, Clinton County and surrounding counties, he also traveled throughout southern Illinois (Shawneetown, Cobden and Fairmont City) to bring the Eucharist, and the compassion, mercy, dignity and respect and God’s forgiveness through this presence and the sacramental ministry of the Catholic Church. This continued until his physical strength declined.”

Born June 15, 1933 in Grand Forks, N.D., to Clarence J. and Winifred Brady Jeffrey, he is survived by nieces and nephews: David Hutcheson of Belleville, Jill Byrne of Oklahoma City, Okla., John Hutcheson of Midland, Mich., Anne Roth of Champaign, Ill., Mark Hutcheson & Peggy Hutcheson of Fayetteville/Mascoutah, Michael Hutcheson of Trenton, Judi MacDonell, Christi Jeffrey-Bragg of San Jose, Calif.

Father Jeffrey was preceded in death by: his parents, his sister Patricia, brother-in law George Hutchenson, a brother William, sister-in-law, Geri McDonald Jeffrey, and a nephew, Jason Jeffrey of San Jose.

After attending the University of North Dakota, Father Jeffrey graduated from St. John University, Collegeville, Minn., in 1959. He was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Fargo, N.D., at St. Mary Catholic Church in Grand Forks, N.D., on May 30, 1959 by Bishop Leo Dworschak. His first assignment was to St. John the Evangelist Parish as parochial vicar and St. Joseph Hospital as chaplain, both in Grafton, N.D., from Sept. 1, 1959-Aug. 31, 1964.

Following this initial ministry assignment, his bishop and diocese released Father Jeffrey to join the apostolate of the Missionary Society of St. James for service in Latin America and the people of Peru. For 22 years, until Sept. 4, 1986, he served the people of Peru in South America. During his time in Peru, his ministry was impacted by one of the most devastating earthquakes in history. The 1970 earthquake that struck Chimbote, Peru, measured 7.9 on the Richter scale and killed 70,000 people.
One especially memorable time for him occurred when he served as the personal language interpreter during Mother — now Saint — Teresa of Calcutta’s visit to Peru. This experience, and his love for Hispanic ministry and ministry in his home Diocese of Fargo were a source of great joy for him.

On Sept. 15, 1986, Father Jeffrey returned to the U.S. first pastoring parishes in Brownsville, Texas and LaFeria, Texas for a total of two years. He then returned to his home Diocese of Fargo, where from July 15, 1988 — June 30, 1999, he was pastor of three parishes. During this time Father Jeffrey was also assigned to Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Fargo.
The body was received at St. Damian Church with the Rite of Christian Burial celebrated in Spanish at 7 p.m. Principal celebrant and homilist was Msgr. Vincent Haselhorst. Burial will occur at a later date in St. Bridget Cemetery, after a Mass of Christian Burial at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Cavalier, N.D.