Father James J. Ronan, former executive director of US Bishops' Latin American Secretariat, retires from Charlestown
The youngest son of the late Rosemary (Stanford) and Arthur Ronan, Father James Joseph Ronan was born in Boston on Jan. 6, 1945, and grew up alongside four siblings: Sister Evelyn Ronan, SNDdeN, Catherine Holmes, Arthur, and the late Edward. He was raised in the community of St. Peter Parish in the Dorchester neighborhood, attending grammar school there before entering St. John Prep in Danvers.
After earning his undergraduate degree from St. Francis College, Maine, Father Ronan attended Boston College, where he received both a master's degree in counseling psychology and a PhD in psychology and administration. While he enjoyed a successful career in education -- with teaching posts at Bentley College, Boston College, and Framingham State College -- he felt a strong call by God, which led him to enter St. John Seminary, Brighton, in 1978. Four years later, on June 5, 1982, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros ordained him to the priesthood at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
From 1982 to 1988, Father Ronan's first assignment was at Immaculate Conception Parish in Malden/Medford, after which he entered the Missionary Society of St. James and, between 1988 and 1994, served as the pastor of La Parroquia Santa Marianita in Duran, Ecuador. Aside from ministering to a vibrant community there, he was also involved in the development of health services, a soup kitchen, a technical high school, and a shelter.
In 1994, he was appointed executive director of the Secretariat for the Church in Latin America at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC. As he oversaw the promotion and administration of the annual collection that provides financial support for the pastoral programs of the Church in Latin America, Father Ronan was on the road often -- visiting places like Los Angeles, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico -- though always content to continue his work supporting the Latin American community.
In 1999, Cardinal Bernard Law announced Father Ronan's appointment from executive director of the Secretariat for the Church in Latin America to pastor at Holy Rosary (Italian) Parish in Lawrence, marking his return to the archdiocese. He would remain a strong presence in Lawrence until 2004, not only at Holy Rosary Parish but also as the administrator at St. Francis of Assisi (Lithuanian) Parish (2001-2002), Sts. Peter and Paul (Portuguese) Parish (2003-2004), and the newly created Corpus Christi Parish (2004).
Arriving from Lawrence to Charlestown in 2004, he began his responsibilities as the pastor of St. Mary Parish, the oldest church in the historic neighborhood, and St. Catherine of Siena, the youngest. In 2006, St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish came into existence when these two very different parishes merged, with Father Ronan ably helming the merger.
The 18 years he spent leading the community of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Father Ronan's presence enriched the lives of his parishioners with his spiritual advice, bilingual liturgies, and by establishing the Good Shepherd School, a well-attended preschool serving the children from the neighborhood.
While his pastorate ended on June 1 -- as he was granted senior priest/ retirement status -- the community of St. Mary's gathered once more on Sunday, June 5, to bid him farewell and celebrate the 40th anniversary of his ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving. The amount of people that attended the Mass is a true testament to the impact he has made not only in his parish but in Charlestown and beyond.
"Leaving Charlestown will be hard to do," he said as he announced his retirement in the parish bulletin published in May. "There is so much that is wonderful about the people in The Town and about being a parish priest here. Furthermore, returning to Boston after many years away has been a joy -- I am a city guy and love this unique neighborhood."
Initially, Father Ronan will retire to his own residence.