Marianist Brother James Fitzgibbons died Nov. 6, 2017, in San Antonio, Texas, at age 81. He had been a member of the Society of Mary (Marianists) for 61 years.
A Syracuse native, Brother Jim was a well-traveled teacher who served for many years at St. John’s Home for Boys in Rockaway Park, N.Y. He also ministered in Zambia, Nigeria, Peru, and India.
James Patrick Fitzgibbons was born on Dec. 19, 1935, to Raymond and Helen (Tague) Fitzgibbons. He attended St. John the Baptist Academy in Syracuse.
Jim felt drawn to religious life at a young age, and in a conversation with his parish priest, he learned of the Society of Mary. He visited the Marianist novitiate at Marcy, N.Y., and entered officially a few months later. He professed first vows on Sept. 8, 1956.
He earned a degree in history from the University of Dayton (Ohio) in 1959. He professed perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1960, in Dayton.
In his early ministry, Brother Jim served at St. John’s Home in 1960. St. John’s was a home for children who had been abused or neglected, or who had fallen into delinquency. For the next three years, Brother Jim served as a counselor and mentor for a large group of teen boys. He was then named director of child care for the home; he ministered in that role until 1965.
He later wrote that the skills he gained at St. John’s Home made it easier for him to embrace his next assignment: missionary work at a new Marianist school in Zambia. From 1965 to 1978, Brother Jim was a teacher and then assistant principal at Matero Boys’ Secondary School in Lusaka.
Brother Jim returned to the United States for one year to study religious formation. He then went back to Africa, this time to Ekpoma, Nigeria, as director of novices at the Marianist Novitiate. He served in that role for nearly six years.
He then was called to a distinctly different geography. After spending several months studying Spanish in Bolivia, Brother Jim moved to Callao, Peru, in 1986. There he taught English, worked in formation, and assisted with maintenance at a Marianist school, Colegio San Antonio.
At age 55, Brother Jim returned to the United States. From 1991 to 1995, he served at Martin House, a ministry among the poor in Trenton, N.J. Brother Jim taught English as a second language and high school diploma programs to newly arrived immigrants. When the Marianists withdrew from Martin House in 1995, Brother Jim returned to ministry at St. John’s Home.
In early 1998, Brother Jim was sent to yet another station on the Marianist map. He served for the following four-and-a-half years as an English teacher and mentor to young men in Marianist formation in Bangalore, India.
Brother Jim was then called to minister at the Marianist Family Retreat Center in Cape May Point, N.J. He assisted with retreats and maintenance tasks.
From 2007 to 2011, Brother Jim again served in India, where he taught and mentored novices.
Brother Jim became seriously ill in India. He returned to the U.S. to recuperate, but his condition grew worse. In his final years, he lived in a Marianist health care community in Texas.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Nov. 9 in Texas. Brother Jim was interred at the Marianist Cemetery in San Antonio.
Memorial donations may be made to the Marianists, P.O. Box 340998, Dayton, Ohio, 45434-0998, or at marianist.com/donate.