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Vocation Stories


James Hayes, SJJames M. Hayes, SJ

Associate Chaplain for Jesuit Mission and Identity and rector of the Jesuit Community at the College of the Holy Cross

I am the second of five sons born to Neil and Mary Elizabeth (O'Mara) Hayes. I grew up in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan and attended Catholic schools. As a youngster, I felt drawn to the priesthood and this desire lasted until puberty. I followed my father to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. My older brother, Neil, graduated from college the same year I was graduating from high school. Since he was facing the draft in 1968, he encouraged me to join the Naval ROTC. I remember him saying, "You do not know how long this Vietnam War will last and the Navy is the safest way to go." I signed up as a first year student.

My brother, Neil, received orders to Vietnam in April 1970 during my sophomore year at Holy Cross. He was killed in May 1970. He left behind a young widow who was pregnant with their first child. The Jesuits at Holy Cross reached out in solidarity to me. Two came to the funeral. Others wrote to me, called me, offered masses, promised prayers, and consoled me in my loss. Their witness had a significant impact on me.

After I graduated in 1972 and commenced my naval service, I experienced God calling me to the service as a Jesuit priest. I finally worked up the nerve to contact the Jesuits. The vocation assistant gave me good Ignatian advice, "Do what you are doing." At the same time, he accompanied me as a spiritual director, invited me to candidates' gatherings, and made available retreat opportunities to me. By the time I finished my three-year commitment to the Navy, I was ready to join the Jesuits.

On 31 August 1975, I entered with ten other men. Eight of us took vows and five of us are serving as Jesuit priests. I did my novitiate in Boston with a pilgrimage experiment to India, and an apostolic experiment in Washington, D.C. I did philosophy at Gonzaga University, where I received the M.A. in Philosophy. I spent three years in Kingston, Jamaica teaching at St. George's College. I completed my Master of Divinity degree at Regis College of the University of Toronto. I was ordained on 15 June 1985. I received the Licentiate of Sacred Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkely, California. I spent five years as a member of the campus ministry team at Fairfield University. My final phase of Jesuit formation took place in Detroit, Michigan and Kampala, Uganda. I pronounced my final vows on 17 June 1995. I returned to my alma mater, Holy Cross, to serve as chaplain for four years and I took up my current mission as director of vocations in 1999.

I have had a great life as a Jesuit. I am in awe of the opportunities I have had to grow in the spirit, to receive such an outstanding education and formation, to experience the international dimension of the Society of Jesus, to engage in challenging ministry, and to be blessed with so many friends in the Lord. I may have lost an older brother but God gave me hundreds of older brothers in this Company of Jesus.

With you always

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