Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 3, 2006
Fr. Jeffcoat – a warm and welcoming man
Priest dies at 74 from cancer
Fr. Jeffcoat dances with friends
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father James Jeffcoat was known as a personable, intelligent and witty priest who was faithful to his Church and his friends and had a passion for young people.
Jeffcoat, pastor of Mary Help of Christians Chinese Parish for the past year, died peacefully March 20 at Foyer Lacombe in St. Albert after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 74.
Friends and relatives from as far as New Orleans, Tampa and Toronto came for his funeral.
Young people will miss him because Jeffcoat gave them a voice and a place in the Church. Scores of young people, members of the youth groups he helped nurture, attended his funeral services and served as altar servers during prayer services in his honour.
Jeffcoat, a priest for almost 45 years, became pastor of Mary Help of Christians Parish on Good Friday 2005 after five years as assistant pastor at the parish.
As assistant pastor, he was responsible for youth formation, helping the young set goals in life and encouraging them to conduct themselves according to the values of the Church.
"He was our spiritual director and he always came to our activities and events," recalled Erwin Fung, president of the Young Adults Group.
"Young people loved him because he was personable, enthusiastic and simple," he said. "I'll remember him as a simple man with a big heart, especially for young people."
Ernest Siu, who represents the youth committee in the parish council, said Jeffcoat was successful with young people because he was kind and approachable. "He guided the young people with patience and love, giving them a lot of flexibility."
But in other aspects, Jeffcoat was somewhat strict, demanding that things be done properly and efficiently. "Even when he was in hospital he would call to check that everything was done," Siu said with a smile.
Father Luc Lantagne, provincial superior of the Salesians of Don Bosco in Canada, said he will remember Jeffcoat as witty, intelligent and faithful. "He was well read and well cultured," he said. "He was very generous with his time and talents and very faithful in his friendships; he cultivated his friendships."
Jeffcoat was also known for his warm and welcoming personality, his intuitive sense of humour and his vast knowledge of chemistry and physics, which he shared with the young. "Father Jim had a special rapport with the young," Lantagne said. "He had a master's degree in chemistry and university students would flock to him so he would help them with their problems."
Janet Scalise, Jeffcoat's cousin from Tampa, described the priest as loving and caring.
"When my husband died (in 1997), he stayed with me for six weeks and I thank God for that because I needed the support," she said. "I don't think I would have been able to make it without his support."
Jeffcoat's friends, Bertha and Mark Gibson of New Orleans, described the Salesian priest as a faithful friend who loved people, Scotch and seafood.
Jeffcoat, a former teacher of one of the Gibsons' children, had visited the Gibsons' home every year for the past nine years.
"He is one of the greatest persons I've ever met," said Bertha. "He would celebrate Mass at our home and all the neighbours would come."
Born in 1932 in Tampa, Fla., Jeffcoat received his elementary and secondary schooling under the guidance of the Salesian Sisters and Fathers.
He professed his first vows in 1951 at the Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., and his perpetual vows on the feast of the Nativity of Mary Sept. 8, 1957. He was ordained a priest in Bollengo, Italy, on March 25, 1961.
He served the young as a teacher, vice-principal and principal in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Ramsey, N.J., Tampa, Fla., Marrero, La., and Toronto. In the last few years of his priestly life, Jeffcoat served as assistant pastor in Montreal and Edmonton becoming pastor of Mary Help of Christians Parish almost a year ago.
A funeral Mass for Jeffcoat was held March 24, followed by internment at St. Michael Cemetery.