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Jesuit Father James Costello, former retreat master, dies at age 89

11/20/2020 | Comments

ST. LOUIS, Mo.  Jesuit Father James J. Costello, who served at Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia for 10 years, died Nov. 3 at age 89 in St. Louis. A Memorial Mass was celebrated Nov. 11 at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis. Father Costello was 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. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, Thomas Costello. He attended St. Louis University for two years before entering the Society of Jesus on Aug. 8, 1953, at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri, 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 had a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in education from St. Louis University. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology from St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, 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, 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 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 for six years (1994-2000), then spent a year as acting superior and acting pastor of the Trinidad Area Catholic Community (2000-2001). Beginning in October 2001, his ministry centered on College Church, where he served as associate pastor and, at times, acting pastor, and Jesuit Hall, from which he was employed in various ministries.

Father Costello’s 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, many years, known as the kindest, gentlest person one could hope for when going to the sacrament of reconciliation. 

He is survived by his nieces, Jenny and Maureen Costello, nephew, Mike Costello and his brothers in the Society of Jesus.

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