Wisdom of Years: A Lifetime of Service

It is often said that a Jesuit never retires. The men who enter the Society of Jesus have answered God’s call – they go anywhere in the world and do all things for the Greater Glory of God. Three of the many Jesuits who entered the Society of Jesus more than 50 years ago and continue to serve others in their encore careers are highlighted here.

Fr. Alfred Fiorino, SJ

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Now in residence at Fordham’s Kohlmann Hall, Fr. Fiorino still continues to serve others by celebrating Sunday Mass at St. Clare of Assisi Church.

After a December snowfall, Fr. Alfred Fiorino, SJ, 88, walks the paths near his residence at Fordham’s Kohlmann Hall almost as easily as he would have as a young seminarian more than 60 years ago.

He keeps a busy schedule, driving Jesuits to medical treatments and providing spiritual counsel to indi­viduals at convents, nursing homes and monasteries throughout the Bronx and parts of the Hudson Valley. Each Sunday he celebrates three Masses, including one in Italian at nearby St. Clare of Assisi Church.

Fr. Fiorino’s current ministry comes after a lifetime of service.

Prior to becoming a Jesuit, he served in the Pacific as a U.S. Navy signalman, reading the Bible whenever possible – even in Guadalcanal and Okinawa. Studying the life of Christ in the New Testament led to a growing vocation, and shortly after ordination, Fr. Fiorino began a long career as a Catholic chaplain for the Navy. He served in places such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and received a total of 18 citations and awards for providing emotional and spiritual care to military personnel and for service during crisis situations.

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Before becoming a Jesuit, Fr. Fiorino served in the Pacific as a U.S. Navy signalman. Here he is picture celebrating Mass.

“As a chaplain, I learned to expect the unexpected. That lesson has carried on throughout my life. You plan ahead as best as you can, but you have to be ready to adjust,” he said.

What helped Fr. Fiorino was the knowledge that he was doing God’s work, and a spirit of acceptance when life doesn’t always go as planned.

And, as he pointed out, he is familiar with the unexpected. Fr. Fiorino began ministry in the Philippines, teaching in Quezon City, but was forced to return to the U.S. due to vocal cord problems. While serving as a chaplain in November 1969, he survived a railroad bombing outside of Danang, Vietnam.

In 1995, when his Jesuit superior asked him to consider a position handling international correspondence for the Jesuit Superior General’s office, Fr. Fiorino, then 72, joked, “Do you know how old I am?”

He left for Rome soon after, the next chapter in a life led with a missionary spirit, ready to serve wherever and however needed.

Today, Fr. Fiorino reflects on his ministry with deep humility and in the spirit of St. Paul, attributing his successes to the grace of God. “Sometimes I joke with the Lord and say, ‘What next?’ But I know that I will always do my best with whatever is presented to me. I don’t sense that specific talents or gifts are at play in my life. What has constantly motivated me has been my desire to serve the Lord.”

Fr. James Woods, SJ

Whether founding a high school in Massachusetts, taking part in a White House advisory committee on literacy, or serving as dean of Boston College’s Woods College of Advanc­ing Studies, Fr. James Woods, SJ, has always approached his work and service with deeply rooted care and concern for the welfare of others.

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At 83, Fr. Woods continues to work as a special assistant to the president of Boston College.

The decoration of his office in Boston College’s McElroy Commons speaks to five decades of ministering to students’ wide range of needs – a caricature sketched by an Advancing Studies graduate, a wall calendar fea­turing the family church of a student from Korea, even the record book from Fr. Woods’ first teaching position at Cranwell, an all-boys boarding school in Lenox, Mass.

Though his office serves as home base, his work as a Jesuit has been and continues to be wherever he encounters academic, financial, career and pastoral needs.

Following his ordination in 1961, Fr. Woods was named provincial secretary and director of vocations for the New England Province. He founded Bishop Connolly High School, in Fall River, Mass., responding to the financial need of each student while assessing the educational needs of the region.

In 1968 Fr. Woods was appointed dean of Boston College’s Evening College of Arts, Sciences, and Business Administration, and two years later also assumed the position of university registrar.

He encouraged faculty to appreciate the diverse learning styles and needs of individuals, keeping his vision focused on empowering students as they improved their lives.

“For most of our students, full-time studies are not an option,” he said. “We accommodate all those in the metropoli­tan area who want to come to Boston College, and make it possible for them to access a quality education. In doing so, we model the roots of Boston College.

In 1969 Fr. Woods created the Eve­ning College’s first endowed scholarship fund for students in need. He partnered with other area institutions to provide a network of support for these men and women, collecting valuable data on graduates and publishing comprehensive research in They Went to College Eve­nings 1929-1968. His appointment by President Jimmy Carter to the National Advisory Council on Adult Education in 1979 gave him the opportunity to advocate for literacy on a national level.

In 2002 the Evening College was renamed the Woods College of Advancing Studies. After stepping down as dean in 2012, Fr. Woods continues as special assistant to the president of Boston College and is present on campus, always ready with wisdom and wit – and the booming laugh – for which he has become so well-known.

Last year, in recognition of his ministry to those in need, the university’s undergraduates named Fr. Woods Person of the Year. This year the university awarded him an honorary degree for his dedication to Boston College’s mission.

With no hint of his 83 years slowing him down, Fr. Woods sees each day filled with possibilities. “I’ve always worked every day until I don’t have any energy left,” he said. “No matter what my position, I’ve always enjoyed being around people, and I see my work today as a continuation of my ministry and service to others.”

Fr. Fiorino and Fr. Woods were profiled by Michael Benigno, director of print and digital media at the New York Province.

Br. John Hollywood, SJ

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Br. Hollywood, SJ, is continuing his service by working in the advancement office for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.

Brother John Hollywood, SJ, settling in at his new home at the Colombiere Jesuit Residence in Baltimore, Md., reminisces on his years as a Jesuit and reflects on his new career in the advancement office at the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.

“On September 7, 1956, at the young age of 18, I walked into the novitiate of St. Isaac Joques in Wernersville, Pa. to begin my six-month postulancy as a Jesuit brother in the Society of Jesus.

“Never could I have imagined what I would experience over the next 57 blessed years – I have had the opportunity to serve at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School as assistant treasurer and Loyola College in Md. (now university) as treasurer of the Jesuit Community, administrator and treasurer of the Jesuit communities at the University of Scranton and Georgetown University, director of Maryland Province properties and ten years at the Vatican Observatories at Castel Gandolfo in Rome, Italy, and in Tucson, Ariz.

“The Roman Delegation of the Society of Jesus for International Houses, of which I was a member, has a directive that when a Jesuit reaches 75 years of age, he is to return to his home province and here I am back in the Maryland Province.

“To quote Fr. John LaFarge, SJ, former editor of America magazine, ‘The great fact of old age, no matter how you look at it, is diminishment in one form or another.’

“I am looking to grow through diminishment. I am now venturing into a whole new field as I am in the early days of working in the Maryland Province Advancement Office, a challenge with purpose, which I enjoy. The Province depends on the work of this office and the generous benefactors who are dedicated to our apostolates. May all who have been chosen by your Son always abound in the works of faith, hope and love in your service. Growth through diminishment is the law of the Kingdom.”

Adapted from JESUITS magazine, Spring 2014. To read the full magazine online, click here.

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