Skip To Main Content

Prep Magazine: P.S. with Fr. Jim Ronan '62

Prep Magazine: P.S. with Fr. Jim Ronan '62

Above: Fr. Ronan delivers the homily during the Baccalaureate Mass for the Class of 2023 last May.


More than 60 years ago, a young man from Boston walked the halls of St. John’s. By his own admission, he wasn’t very good at sports. He didn’t do particularly well in class. While not necessarily known for his academic or extracurricular achievements, Jim Ronan ’62 knew he was destined for something. But what?

After earning his undergraduate degree from St. Francis College, ME, then just “Mr. Ronan” attended Boston College, where he received both a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a Ph.D. in psychology and administration. But even as a successful educator, he yearned for something more. Here, he speaks on his path to priesthood and his most recent return to the St. John’s Prep community.

Q: What was your journey to priesthood like?

A: When I graduated from the Prep, I was inclined towards religious life. I joined the Augustinians and spent a couple of years with them at Villanova University in their program. I left and worked for a while, went back to college, and then went on to teach. I’m a psychologist by professional training. But I sort of became restless in that line of work and wondered, “Is this it?” Finally, it became clear to me that I needed to respond to a call, an invitation to do more. I realized that no behavioral scientist can address the deepest hunger in the yearnings of the human heart. My own desire for what I wanted to do with my life was responding to God’s call to priesthood. So, I went into the diocese and seminary in Boston in 1978 and was ordained in 1982.

Q: What is something that’s occurred during your life as a priest that may surprise others, or maybe even surprised yourself?

A: What surprised me was something I wasn’t looking to do, but I felt a strong call to become a missionary. So after six years in my parish in Boston, I packed up and went to Latin America and was a missionary for the St. James Society. They take priests into the poorest of poor regions where there are no other priests available within the local countries or dioceses to work among the poor. That was a huge learning experience, which I draw from continually and forever. In fact, I started a program there that continues to this day.

Q: Can you describe the program?

A: It’s called Rostro de Cristo—translated as Face of Christ in English—and is based in Ecuador. The program invites schools like the Prep as well as universities to go on immersion retreat experiences. It’s a faith-driven program. It’s defined by the relationships that the volunteers have within communities where we serve. We work within Ecuadorian foundations or groups that might be within a parish, a school, a healthcare center, a social service agency, or a similar area. We offer our collaboration to inspire a lifelong commitment to a faith amongst these marginalized communities.

Q: It seems as though your role as a priest has brought you to all sorts of places. Are there other locations that stand out to you?

A: After Ecuador, I spent five years in Washington, D.C. as the Secretary of the Church of Latin America for the United States Conference of Bishops. In that job, I was all over Central America, the Caribbean, South America—in all the different regions. I was sort of like the nexus between the U.S. Church and the Latin American Church. I returned [to Massachusetts] and spent five years in Lawrence as a minister. Then I was sent to Charlestown.

Q: After your 18 years at St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown, you returned to St. John’s Prep in 2022 as a chaplain. What is it like being back at your alma mater?

A: Obviously the Xaverian Brothers were very present when I was here as a student, and now they’re not. However, one of the things that impelled me to return were the documents. There’s a guiding document from the Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools network that articulates the mission of the Xaverian Brothers and their educational institutions in a very clear and compelling way. Each one of these schools has a mission. While the Brothers are no longer here, they, along with lay men and women, have laid the foundation for their values and traditions to be carried on. Frankly, the Xaverian spirit feels more accessible than it did when they walked this campus.


Alumni, didn't get your Prep Magazine? Make sure the alumni office has your most up-to-date contact information.