St. Roch Catholic Church’s Rev. James R. Wilmoth celebrates 50 years since he was ordained as a priest
Rev. James R. Wilmoth says he wakes up every day, anxious to get going. He never feels like he’s at work – even when he was teaching full-time at Roncalli High School. Recently celebrating 50 years since he was ordained as a priest, Wilmoth said he looks forward to doing everything he can to be an effective leader and serve others.
“I never dreamed of the joy, fulfillment, the happiness that I would get from being a priest,” Wilmoth said. “I’ve been so lucky of being in parishes where people are just wonderful. That’s what makes my life so enjoyable. The people around me have given me energy to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Wilmoth grew up on the Eastside, attending St. Philips parish. He attended St. Mary High School, a high school seminary, before attending Saint Mary’s College. He studied theology for four years at St. Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology, where he was ordained as a priest on May 2, 1965.
“I grew up in a very loving, wonderful family – my mom and dad were great people, good faith-filled people,” Wilmoth spoke of his influences to enter priesthood. “The priests at St. Philips at that time were a great influence on all the boys and girls that went to school there. Seeing them and seeing their lives, they always seemed like they were very happy…They always seemed fulfilled. Then I went to college and saw the same thing. I pretty much made up my mind through college that’s what I wanted to do.”
Of his 50 years, Wilmoth has spent 43 on the Southside, including serving as an assistant pastor at Our Lady of Greenwood, pastor at Holy Name in Beech Grove, and pastor at St. Roch since 1997. He has served as chaplain of the Indianapolis Fire Department and Marion County Sheriff’s Department, a chaplain and teacher at Roncalli and in many other leadership positions in the community.
“It’s a life of service,” Wilmoth said. “I was always service oriented. I always took to the scripture passage where Jesus said whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers or sisters, you are doing it for me. That always struck me as something for all of us. Whatever we can do for the least of people, we are doing it for Jesus. How we can be of service for others. It’s different for everybody.”
While Wilmoth has faced some health issues in the past year, he said he is recovering and feeling stronger each day. He said during his time in the hospital, he received cards and prayers from all over the world. Symbols of the community’s support are still shown through things such as ribbons tied to the fence beside St. Roch Catholic School along with a sign stating ‘prayers for Father Wilmoth.’
He said that he has been blessed to serve so much of his time on the Southside, and enjoys being of service to people and celebrating Mass with them.
“I’ve been fortunate to be a priest for 50 years,” Wilmoth said. “It’s far more than I ever thought it would be.”
What has Rev. Wilmoth meant to you?
“There is nobody more passionate, and committed, towards Catholic education than Father James Wilmoth. He looks at St. Roch Catholic School, and nearby Roncalli High School, as a big part of his daily ministry. Father Wilmoth has a boundless energy and love of Catholic education that is an inspiration to us all.
It has been my observation and belief that our school, and parish, as well as the Roncalli family appreciate how much Father gives to our community through his time and talents. We appreciate his unselfishness. We appreciate his leadership. And we appreciate his lifetime of service to the Catholic church, Catholic education, and the south side of Indianapolis.”
Joe Hansen, Principal of St. Roch Catholic School
“He is one of my best friends, my spiritual mentor. He’s an inspirational leader at St. Roch School and Church. I just admire him and all that he has committed his life to, for church and for God. We’re thankful to have him here at St. Roch for so long now.”
Julie McQuire, work at the Parish office
“17 years ago the Franciscan Priests pulled out of Saint Roch after 75 years. We thought that would be the end of our parish. Surely the Archdiocese did not have a priest to spare. Then along comes Father Wilmoth. He was already well known throughout the Southside and Roncalli High School.
Father Wilmoth has a great relationship with the young and the old(er). His giant smile when he enters a room makes everyone feel welcome and makes everyone smile. At the first Saturday night mass that he was able to celebrate after his illness; the congregation gave him a standing ovation when he entered the church. We were whole, again!
I respect this man as one of the greatest priest ever and I am blessed to call him my friend.”
Betty Stumpf Moon, St. Roch music coordinator
“He’s a good friend, pastor and leader. He’s top notch at everything. He is a good shepherd for our parish. Everybody feels so connected to him. He’s been here almost 18 years and has totally given himself to our parish, to our school, to Roncalli and other areas. He’s so good to the poor. He just helps everybody. He loves our school kids. He only wanted to be at a parish if he had a Catholic School, even though it’s more work. He’s very kind and generous. He’s very thoughtful… He’s very connected to people. I don’t know how he does it all. He has boundless energy and vision.”
Bonnie Schott, member for more than 41 years