Crew Appreciation Week: Fr. Jim Chern

When I was growing up our parish priests were Benedictine monks from a local monastery. Because of this, my image of priests were of old men. Men with grey hair, balding, and wrinkles. As such, my image of priest for most of my life were of old men. Not exactly someone that I could really associate with.

I don't think I'm alone with this type of association. Lino has repeatedly said on his show that he wants people to see priests as normal, every day people. He wants us to see priests as fellow human beings, people with hopes, dreams and desires. People who are with us in the long race to get to heaven.

This is one of the reasons Lino has made Fr. Jim a regular guest on The Catholic Guy Show. He is your every day Joe. He is just like you and me. He is the type of guy you can sit around and talk baseball with. He is the type of guy you can sit down and have a beer with. The only difference is that he has chosen, or should I say--God has chosen Fr. Jim's vocation to be a priest. Fr. Jim has chosen to follow that vocation.

Fr. Jim has been a priest for 12 years. Seven of those years he served as a parish priest and the last five years he has been in the mission fields as a campus minister at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ. I realize that when you think of a missionary you think of someone who is preaching Jesus to some native in the Amazon or something like that. But I challenge you to think about what Fr. Jim is doing. He is preaching Jesus to college kids who are away from home and away from their parents for probably the first times in their lives. They are being exposed to sex and alcohol and having to face the repercussions of their decisions. Fr. Jim is there praying for them, offering them the Eucharist, hearing their confessions, praying with them and helping them get to Heaven. And he isn't doing it at a Catholic college. To make it even more difficult, he is doing it at a secular college----or as people call it . . . a college.

In order to minister to these college kids, he has to be "normal." He has to be "in the world" while not being "of the world." He can't act all pious and at the same time, he can't be fake. Otherwise, he would turn the kids off and they would see right through him. In order to connect with them he has to be "normal."

I first corresponded with Fr. Jim several years back on MySpace when I was discerning the diaconate. He gave me advice and felt a connection with him. I hadn't realized that he had been a chaplain for his local police department so he understood a little of what my life was like as a police officer. I sent him a patch and a shirt from my agency and we've kept in touch. A couple years ago, he traveled to Illinois for a conference and we met at a St. Louis Cardinal's game. I had a great time with him and I can attest that Fr. Jim is indeed---the type of guy you can sit at a baseball game and share a beer with--because I've done it.

I remember my mom talking about how they used to have the local priest over for dinner when she was growing up. I always thought this was odd. I could never imagine growing up eating dinner with a priest and having them be----normal. Fr. Jim has proven me wrong. I feel like I could open up with him and tell him my problems and get sound advice from him. I think the students of Montclair are blessed to have him there. I consider him a friend. That . . . is what's up with Fr. Jim.

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1 Response to Crew Appreciation Week: Fr. Jim Chern

  1. C. Marucci says:

    I agree, Father Jim is a great person. Not just a great priest, because he is that too. He married my wife and I, baptized my three children and is always there when I have a question. I have had him to my house for dinner and sat and had beers with him as well. I can attest to you that he is also a good friend. What more could you want from a priest. I am proud to have him in my life.