The Rev. James W. Moore, 92, a Jesuit priest for more than 50 years and a former associate dean at St. Joseph’s University, died Friday, Sept. 13, in the Jesuit Community at Manresa Hall, Merion Station.
Father Moore was born in Trenton in 1927, the youngest of five sons of John and Elizabeth Moore. The Great Depression struck when he was a toddler, crushing his father’s pottery business and causing the family to lose everything.
“All came to an end except their faith. [Mom and Dad] held together and raised us during some very tough times,” he wrote in an online autobiography.
Father Moore felt the stirrings of faith from the time he was in sixth grade. “I would walk up to Mary’s altar at our parish church and say a Rosary every day during Lent,” he wrote. “Most kids were out playing at that time, but there I was in the church with my rosary.”
When he enrolled in Trenton Senior High School, a vice principal named Sarah Christie took an interest in him. “She suspected a [priestly] vocation in me even then,” he wrote.
During his senior year, he enlisted in the Navy and was called to active duty 10 days before graduation. The 14 months he spent as a sailor clarified his calling to join the priesthood, he wrote.
In August 1946, he was honorably discharged from the service. Three weeks later, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Wernersville, Berks County.
“Saying good-bye was not an easy thing,” he wrote, “but I remember saying to my mom, ‘As long as I am here, you will know that I am happy. If I ever become unhappy, I will come home.’ ” Father Moore pronounced his vows in 1948 and was ordained a priest in 1959.
In 1963, he joined St. Joseph’s as director of undergraduate admissions. In that role, he advocated for changes that are now a part of campus life: construction of LaFarge Residence Center, seven-day cafeteria service, and introduction of a casual dress code to replace the required suit and tie.
In 1978, Father Moore became director of the freshman program, and in 1981 he took on the role of associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
For nearly three decades, his approachable nature made him a favored counselor and adviser to thousands of students on both academic and personal matters, the university said in an online tribute.
“Father Moore was one of the most beloved and indelible figures at St. Joe’s in recent history,” said president Mark C. Reed. “He was a progressive and visionary who helped to shape our academic distinction, campus footprint, and student culture."
Father Moore was active on campus and with St. Joseph’s alumni groups. In 2002, he was presented with the Rev. Joseph S. Hogan award recognizing his "exemplification of Christian principles” and service to the university. When he retired in 2008, the university renamed Overbrook Hall in his honor.
“To have a student dorm named for me is a kind of crowning moment in my life here at St. Joseph’s University,” he said in an online account of the presentation. “I am very pleased."
In retirement, Father Moore celebrated Mass on campus, at St. Matthias Catholic Church in Bala Cynwyd, and at Jersey Shore parishes.
He gave spiritual guidance to aspiring priests. “He took great delight in opening doors for people,” said William J. Byron, a fellow Jesuit priest. “He was interested in the development of human potential.”
Father Moore is survived by several nieces and nephews.
A campus remembrance will be Wednesday, Sept. 18, in the Chapel of St. Joseph, 5600 City Ave., Philadelphia. A brief prayer service starting at 7 p.m. will be followed by a viewing until 8:30.
Another viewing will start at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at St. Matthias Catholic Church, 128 Bryn Mawr Ave, Bala Cynwyd. A Mass will be celebrated at 10:30. Burial is in Wernersville.