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Obituary: Father Harold James Bartlett

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The Province of the United States recommends to our fraternal prayers our dear brother Harold James BARTLETT priest, of the Marianist Community at Sienna Woods, in Dayton, OH who died in the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary on January 10, 2022, in Dayton at the age of 85 with 63 years of religious profession. Father Jim was a beloved teacher, pastor, campus minister, and spiritual director. Remembered affectionately for both his playful sense of humor and joyful spirituality, Father Jim always treasured the opportunity to be present and available to those he encountered. He believed deeply in the lay apostolate decreed by Vatican II and worked throughout his adult life to encourage and empower laypeople to fully embrace their role as leaders of the Christian community. Harold James Bartlett was born on March 4, 1936, in Utica, New York. He was the eldest of three children born to Harold J. and Elizabeth (Goodwin) Bartlett. His parents, and sisters Majorie Anne Guernsey and Mary Louise McCann, have all preceded him in death.

Baptized in 1936 at his home parish of St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford, New York, young Jim attended the local public grade school and high school. He then enrolled at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada – where he encountered the Basilian Fathers, and entered the order’s novitiate in the fall of 1956. The next spring, he left their novitiate due to an illness. After spending a few months at home, Jim entered the Marianist Novitiate at Marcy, New York, in the fall of 1957. Brother Jim professed first vows at Marcy in 1958, then began scholasticate studies at the University of Dayton as a member of the Mount St. John Community. He made his perpetual vows on August 15, 1962, in Dayton. Having earned a bachelor of science in education, he then began teaching religion, history and Latin at Purcell High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Called to the priesthood,

Brother Jim entered the Marianist Seminary at Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1965. He was ordained on July 25, 1969, at Marcy. For the next 16 years, Father Jim resumed his teaching career – taking on faculty and chaplaincy positions at Moeller High School (Cincinnati), Memphis (Tennessee) Catholic High School, Chaminade-Julienne Prep (Dayton) and St. Laurence College (Dublin, Ireland). He also later served at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1985, Father Jim began two years of graduate studies at the Jesuit and Franciscan Schools of Theology in Berkeley, California. His priestly ministry then began a new chapter, as Father Jim moved primarily into parish and pastoral positions through 2007. He served at St. John Church in Albion, Michigan; Queen of Apostles Parish in Dayton; and at St. John’s Parish in Denton, Texas. After devoting more than 18 years to parish work, Father Jim returned to academic circles – serving first as chaplain at Chaminade University in Honolulu, Hawaii, beginning in 2007; and then taking on that same role at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2010.

Retiring from active ministry in 2014, he joined the Marianist Residence Community at San Antonio, Texas, and then moved to the Sienna Woods Community in 2020. Throughout his life of service, Father Jim generously shared his gift for bringing people together and putting them at ease. Having lived for years with him in community, Father Pat McDaid says of Father Jim, “I remember his astonishing kindness and approachability. ‘Barts’ loved everyone he ever met. He taught teachers, catechists, ministry leaders, Brothers and Sisters how to live and serve as Jesus did. He did so in his every word, and especially in how he lived.” An impish sense of humor was also a hallmark. “It’s the first thing I think of,” remembers Luke Hoenigman, a teacher at San Antonio’s Central Catholic High School and former Marianist novice. “‘How are you doing,’ I would ask him, knowing full well the answer I would get. Father Jim would run his hands up and down each arm, and say ‘I feel fine.’ He would then let out a chuckle, enjoying his own pun,” Luke says. He also recalls Father Jim’s holy demeanor prior to times of community prayer at the novitiate. “He would sit with his eyes closed and a little smile on his face. I had never seen anyone look so joyful during a few minutes of meditation.” Brother Bernard Ploeger, who lived with Father Jim both in Dayton and Honolulu, is grateful for the priest’s abundant ‘people skills.’ “I believe the words ‘sensitivity’ and ‘availability’ were Jim’s special gifts,” Brother Bernie says. “He could intuit when a person needed a pat on the back, and if you wanted to see him, Jim put such requests first – he did what he could to be available. He was always a witness to this type of ministerial presence.” When word of Father Jim’s passing reached the Maison Saint-Jean Community in Antony, France, it touched the hearts of two men whose community encounters with him had been separated by many decades. Brother Leno Ceballos said, “I am mourning the loss of our dear brother. I have fond memories of my time with him – a friendship that began when I was an aspirant in San Antonio. He was a great supporter of my vocation, and an advocate for those in need. And Father Robert Babel in my community here also sends his condolences. He lived with Father Jim in Fribourg [during their seminary years]. The Society has truly lost a great brother and priest.”

May he rest in peace.

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