A memorial Mass for Father James Costello, SJ, was celebrated Nov. 11 at St. Francis Xavier (“College”) Church. Father Costello died Nov. 3 in St. Louis. He was 89 years old, a Jesuit for 67 years and a priest for 54 years.
James Joseph Costello was born in St. Louis on July 9, 1931 to Michael Joseph and Catherine Hughes Costello. He attended Saint Louis University for two years before entering the Society of Jesus on Aug. 8, 1953, at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, pronouncing first vows on Aug. 15, 1955. He was ordained to the priesthood at College Church on June 8, 1966. He pronounced his final vows on Nov. 6, 1971, at St. John’s College in Belize.
Father Costello earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in education from Saint Louis University. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas.
Father Costello served in a variety of ministries, ranging from education to retreat and parish work as well as hospital chaplaincy and campus ministry. From 1960-63, he taught history, Latin, and math at St. John’s College in Belize City, Belize. He returned to serve as principal from 1968-75 and as a teacher from 1976-77.
In 1978, Father Costello transitioned to retreat ministry at Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado, where he remained until 1982. He was assigned as pastor at St. Francis Xavier (“College”) Church in 1982 and served until 1988. Two years as chaplain at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis and two years as a campus minister at Rockhurst University were followed by a year as minister to priests in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and a year at St. John LaLande Parish in Blue Springs, Missouri.
He returned to Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia for six years (1994-2000), then spent a year as acting superior and acting pastor of the Trinidad Area Catholic Community (2000-01). Beginning in October 2001, his ministry centered on the College Church, where he served as associate pastor and, at times, acting pastor, and Jesuit Hall, from which he was employed in various ministries.
His Jesuit brothers remember him for his gentle and joyful spirit and warm smile. He was trusted and beloved by generations of students, parishioners, retreatants and patients. At College Church, he was a legend as a confessor for many years, known as the kindest, gentlest person one could hope for when going to the sacrament of reconciliation.
Father Costello donated his body to science.