Friar returns to university with passion for ministry

Photo by Brigid Mack

Margaret Peppiatt
Staff Writer

Since celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination this past spring, the Rev. Jim Angert, TOR, currently has no plans for retirement. In fact, when asked about the matter, Angert says that his “retirement plan is out of this world.”

“As long as I have the health to do ministry, that’s what I like to do,” Angert said.

Assigned to Franciscan University of Steubenville this past summer, Angert spends several evenings a week at Sts. Kolbe and Clare Halls as the dorm chaplain. He also helps with the sacraments on campus and works with the Priestly Discernment Program alongside the Rev. Jonathan McElhone, TOR.

Every other week, Angert makes the trip out to Holy Family Hermitage in Bloomingdale to hear the confessions of the Camaldolese hermits, or what he calls “the strictest order in the Church.”

Angert is originally from a small town in western Pennsylvania, where he grew up in a large family. He explained that although the area struggled economically, the Catholic faith flourished.

“(My) older brother said we were so poor that we didn’t realize how rich we were because (of) the faith … it was a wonderful community,” Angert said.

As he attended Catholic grade school and public high school, the thought of the priesthood never entered his mind. Angert entertained thoughts of working for the CIA or FBI until he underwent a spiritual experience in high school that got him thinking about his vocation.

Angert encountered the Lord as he was praying the Our Father while walking home from a dance one summer evening in high school.

“When I came to the part of the Our Father ‘thy kingdom come,’ an incredible experience of the Lord’s love (occurred). It was God’s grace,” said Angert. He recollected being filled with peace and joy.

Angert said God inaudibly told him, “I want you to go to everyone and talk to everyone about my love. Go to the poor… if (people) have my love, they have everything.”

Angert then began discerning the priesthood. He joined the Franciscan order and was first assigned as a chaplain at a community college in Pittsburgh. His next assignments were coordinator of campus ministry at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania; novice master in Winchester, Virginia; and pastoral ministry at St. Joseph’s Parish in Herndon, Virginia.

From 1988 to 1997, Angert served in campus ministry at Franciscan University and taught in the theology department. He spent three years at the Franciscan campus in Gaming, Austria, where he enjoyed skiing with students who were studying abroad.

“When I was in Austria, I’d take the kids skiing,” Angert said. “That’s probably my favorite sport.”

Engaging in various forms of exercise throughout his life, Angert enjoyed playing tennis, racquetball and golf when he was at Franciscan in the ’90s. Now, he walks to stay active. “I just enjoy walking around campus. I think it’s a beautiful place here,” Angert said.

In the interim between his previous presence on campus and now, Angert served in pastoral ministry at parishes in Virginia, Florida and Texas.

Looking back, Angert called all his assignments a great blessing. “What you find is there’s great people all over the place. It’s the Lord’s action continued. I enjoy preaching, I enjoy the celebration of the sacraments, (and) building up the body of Christ,” he said.

Angert was astonished at the expansion of the university upon his return to Franciscan.

“I think it’s a great faith environment here, and likewise when I was here before,” said Angert. “It was much smaller then. I couldn’t believe, when I came back to campus, that it was the same place. The growth is incredible.”

He said he thinks the university is blessed with a phenomenal student body and is inspired by “their love of the Lord, their love of the Catholic faith (and) how they really want to grow.”

Angert is glad to be back on campus and looks forward to seeing how the university continues to grow.