ARCHDIOCESAN PRIEST, REV. JAMES J. CLOSE, DIES
Advocate for Troubled and Abandoned Youth
During 33 Years as Head of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls
Chicago, IL (September 2, 2011) – Rev. James Close, president emeritus of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, died Wednesday, August 31, of cancer at St. Benedict Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Niles. He was 75 years old and served as a priest in the Archdiocese for 48 years, 33 of those as president of Mercy Home, a multi-faceted facility that has served kids in crisis for nearly 125 years.
Fr. Close began his work at Mercy Home in 1973, and no one embodied its mission of saving and nurturing young lives more than he did, as he steadily went about the work of advancing not only the care of the young boys and girls, but supporting their families and creating public awareness of their special needs.
In his three decades of service there he started programs that introduced kids to the beauty of nature; extended guidance services for those who left Mercy Home; paired adult mentors and role models with at-risk children in the community; restructured the counseling and youth-care programs and honored leaders among the kids, giving rewards for their achievements.
Over the years, under his direction Mercy Home expanded its program for boys and began providing services for young girls, eventually including girls 17 years of age and older. In 1990, Mercy Home officially changed its name to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. In 1992, Mercy Home was acknowledged by the Council on Accreditation for its pioneering efforts in providing services for kids in crisis, one of the first organizations of its kind to be recognized in the region.
In 1987, Fr. Close was honored as the recipient of Mercy Home’s first Founders Award, and in 1999 Father Close was given the honor of Grand Marshal of the Chicago Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
Fr. Close was born in Chicago to Irish parents and attended Catholic elementary schools in the city. He was a graduate of Quigley Preparatory Seminary and the University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary. Cardinal Meyer ordained him in 1963.
He served for 10 years as associate pastor of St. John Brebeuf Parish in Niles before being appointed as superintendent of the Mission of Our Lady of Mercy, as Mercy Home was then known. For two years beginning in 1992, Fr. Close was the Director of the Department of Communications and Development for the Archdiocese in addition to his duties at Mercy Home. In February 2006, Fr. Close retired as president of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.
Visitation for Fr. Close will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6, at Holy Family Church, 1080 West Roosevelt Road in Chicago. Most Rev. Thad Jakubowski, Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, will be the main celebrant at a funeral Mass for Fr. Close at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, September 7, at Holy Family Church. Interment will take place at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines.
Fr. Close is survived by his brothers, Michael, William and Leo, and by a sister, Sister Letitia, BVM.