St. Germaine Catholic School staff remembers The Rev. James Bjorum

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 3, 2023




ST. CLAIR SHORES — The Rev. James Bjorum made everyone feel welcome at the Our Lady of Hope Parish and he was a good listener, according to the staff at St. Germaine Catholic School.

Known as Father Jim, Bjorum was born Oct. 30, 1947, and died on Oct. 23, 2023.

St. Germaine Catholic School Principal Colleen Maciejewski said Bjorum was at the parish for 35 years as the pastor. When St. Gertrude and St. Germaine merged and became Our Lady of Hope, Bjorum presided over the merger, she said.

“And he touched many lives during that time,” Maciejewski said.

Maciejewski said Bjorum grew up on a farm, a story she said he liked to tell the kids, and that he moved to western Michigan. He also went to Michigan State University where, Maciejewski said, he decided to become a priest. He went to different churches in the area. Bjorum’s obituary states he devoted 47 years to the Catholic Church.

“He was here for a really, really long time,” Maciejewski said about the Our Lady of Hope Parish. “So it’s kind of just a shock to the whole community that he isn’t with us anymore.”

Maciejewski said she’s known Bjorum for 16 years and she liked working with him.

“He was a very nice man,” Maciejewski said. “And he just, he cared for everyone in his charge and everyone that walked through his church doors.”

Sarah Chetcuti, St. Germaine Catholic School’s religious education secretary, said Bjorum was a good listener and he was like a member of the family to many people within the parish and the school. She said she’s known Bjorum since he came to the parish 35 years ago.

No matter the topic, Chetcuti said she never left conversations with Bjorum feeling disappointed.

“Whenever him and I would leave the conversation, I always felt at peace,” Chetcuti said.

Chetcuti has three children who attended the school and are now married with their own children. She said they felt the impact Bjorum had on them and other parishioners and parents. Chetcuti said when she called her children to tell them of Bjorum’s passing, they didn’t want to believe it.

“The first thing they all said was ‘Oh, my gosh, mom. He’s like family. He’s not just a priest. He’s like family,’” Chetcuti said. “And I said to my kids, ‘Here’s the thing: Every parishioner is saying the same thing.’ We are feeling like he’s family to us.”

Chetcuti went on to say Bjorum made everyone feel like they were family. Later on, she said her son-in-law is not Catholic and he said that Bjorum made him feel welcomed and never awkward.

“We didn’t just lose our parish priest, we lost family,” Chetcuti said.

Chetcuti said she would always smile at former students who came up to receive Communion. She said sometimes she wouldn’t recognize her students, but Bjorum would.

“I saw them (the students) all the time yet this man would look at me and say, ‘Sarah, you didn’t smile at them. You didn’t recognize them. This is so and so and you better go say hi because they’re going to be sad if you don’t recognize them,’” Chetcuti said. “And then I would go back and sure enough, it would be exactly who he said it was.”

She went on to say, “He knows his whole flock.”

“You never left his memory,” Chetcuti said.

Both Chetcuti and Maciejewski said there are hundreds of comments on Facebook about Bjorum’s passing, with many people sharing memories about him. They also said some of the older members of the parish didn’t know about Bjorum’s passing initially because they don’t use social media.

“The elderly of our parish (do) not necessarily have the way of knowing,” Chetcuti said. “To know the new ways of doing things.”

Chetcuti said she doesn’t think Bjorum is replaceable and that no one is going to be able to fill his shoes.

“The man touched more lives than I even knew,” Chetcuti said. “And that he was such a busy man for our parish, and that I don’t think any of us realized how much he really did.”

Pauline Latessa, St. Germaine Catholic School’s administrative assistant, said she’s known Bjorum for over 35 years. She said he was a good man, a good priest and a good friend.

“I will miss him deeply,” she said through tears.