August 31, 2011
Rev. James J. Close (“Fr. Jim”)
The Passing of a Leader
For a city known for boasting loudly of its big shoulders, Chicago has lost a true giant who quietly, and humbly shouldered the burdens of thousands of young people for more than three decades. Rev. James J. Close—or ‘Fr. Jim,’ as he was affectionately known by scores of youth, friends and donors to Mercy Home—died on August 31, 2011, following a long battle with cancer. He was 75 years old.
“I had the privilege of working alongside Fr. Jim for many years,” said Fr. Scott Donahue, president of Mercy Home who served with Fr. Close since 1990, first as a member of its Board of Regents, and later as its Associate President. “Fr. Close’s legacy is profound. His imprint on this community and on the lives of thousands of young people who have passed through our doors will continue to be felt for generations to come,” Donahue said.
“Let us pray and give thanks to God for having given Fr. Close to Mercy Home.”
“We have lost a legend,” said Darryl Schimeck, chairmain of Mercy Home’s Board of Directors. “Fr. Close was a true father to so many who came to Mercy Home lost, forgotten, or cast aside. Her served these children and he served the Lord. And he did it all with gentleness, with grace, and with humility.”
James Joseph Close was born on Chicago’s North Side in 1936 to Catherine and Sylvester Close, who emigrated from Ireland. Fr. Close was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest since 1963, performing his parish ministry for 10 years before taking the helm at Mercy Home. Close was an inspired and dedicated servant of the poor in spirit. In the course of his 33-year ministry at Mercy Home Fr. Close forever changed the lives of hurting and hopeless young men and women, many of who consider him a father in the truest sense.
“In life, it’s not what you take with you at the end that counts,” Fr. Close said in a homily at his retirement Mass in April 2006. “It’s what you’ve done for the least of your brothers and sisters. This is my daily prayer. It’s a prayer of thanksgiving and acceptance. It is a prayer for you and me.”
He was committed to meeting the ever-evolving challenges faced by young people by embracing change and innovation in their care. That boldness of leadership enabled Fr. Close to transform a struggling home for boys in a tough West Side Chicago neighborhood into a nationally-recognized leader in caring for neglected, abandoned and troubled youth. Thanks to his vision, and his tenacity, Mercy Home now provides critically-needed services for more than 600 young men and women every year and faithfully stewards the support of thousands of loyal donors and friends all over the world.