From The Catholic Miscellany of Charleston, SC:
He was ordained on July 25, 1957, as a priest of the Episcopal Church. He later converted to Catholicism and served the Diocese of Charleston. He served in parishes in Indiana and the Chicago area, where he earned a master’s in library science from Rosary College. In 1967, while living in Chicago, Father Parker was knighted by King Peter II of Yugoslavia for his charitable work. He was given the Order of St. Salva by the king, who was living in exile in the United States at that time. When Father Parker left Chicago, he became a librarian for Maryknoll Seminary in Glen Ellyn, Ill., and later for the Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn. He was in parish ministry in Albany, Ga., when the couple and their two college-age daughters decided to convert to Catholicism. It was 1976. The conversion had been a long time in the making, however. In the 1960s the Episcopal Church had begun to make changes. “Before this time we were able to teach forthrightly the Catholic religion; then the Episcopal church on the local and national level began to vote on issues considered revealed faith,” said Father Parker. The Parkers were Anglo-Catholics, who as members of the Episcopal Church faithfully held to the teachings of Catholicism and believed that they were working toward corporate reunion with Rome. “When these things happened we realized that Rome could not accept us,” Father Parker said. “Episcopal priests who were married were now asking for reunion individually.” While in Albany, Father Parker was provincial of the Society of the Holy Cross. The men there elected him to represent their cause for conversion, so he contacted the apostolic nuncio to the United States. After a three-hour interview, the nuncio brought the Episcopal priests’ cause to the Vatican, where it was handled by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Four years later, the Vatican allowed Episcopal priests — married and celibate — to convert. An American bishop was appointed to oversee the process, and Father Parker was named as his assistant. In 1981, the Parker family became Catholic. On June 29, 1982, Father Parker was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest for the Diocese of Charleston — the first married, former Episcopal priest to do so. “I found that they [other Catholic priests] were very open to me. The more conservative, the more open they were to the process,” Father Parker said. “We did not see ourselves as a red flag against celibacy.”
A priest friend from Charleston who knew him writes:
Jim was an amazing man — witty, quick, remarkably well read, highly intelligent, and oh so fun to be around. His Charleston brogue (don’t ever call it a “drawl”) was as thick as pea soup which added to his wonderful persona. We really have missed him and Mary Alma since they were so much a team and a major gift to our diocese.
His obituary at Legacy.com has more on his remarkable life.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…
Photo: Getty Images