Hello CACCLC 2018 campers! It is truly my joy to introduce Fr. James Heft as this year’s spiritual director.
Fr. Jim has an impressive background as a historian, a professor, a Marianist priest, and the president of Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC (IACS). But the Fr. Jim I want to share with you is a dear friend and loving mentor who gives the best bear hugs and has a great singing voice.
I first met Fr. Jim in 2011, during my undergraduate studies at University of Southern California, when I signed up for his course on “Catholicism in the US.” Having grown up in the public school system, it was my first time taking a class from a priest. Even as a Catholic, I found it surprising to see a tall man with a clerical collar standing at the front of the classroom.
And so, our friendship began with cordial conversation in class discussions (it may have been required to pass). Outside of the classroom, our paths crossed many times at the USC Caruso Catholic Center’s events. Fr. Jim hosted “Intellectual Catholicism” open discussions with students; his institute held lectures that brought together various scholars from different fields and backgrounds; and the Marianists opened their home to potlucks and holiday gatherings. Despite his busy schedule, Fr. Jim would always make time for visitors and I found a sense of comfort when I sit in his office, surrounded by books that lined the walls from floor to ceiling.
Over the years, Fr. Jim challenged me to grow as a young Catholic woman. Despite his knowledge, he never gave in to anyone's pestering to just “give the answers.” Instead, he responded with more guiding questions and reflected with me. At the end of our meetings, he always takes prayer requests and asks us to pray for him as well.
Here’s my favorite photo of me and Fr. Jim, taken after our senior blessing Mass in 2014– yes, that’s his hat that he plopped on my head.
I am beyond excited to share this weekend with you!
- Claire L (ExCo Programs)