“Fr. Joyce preferred to spend most of his life ‘walking with the excluded.’ Those walks took him into psychiatric wards, a dangerous parish in Kingston, Jamaica, and into the prisons of Northern Ireland, where he reassured isolated, suffering prisoners that God had not forgotten them,” wrote Geoffrey Cobb, a former colleague. “He also served as chaplain in the Tombs, the notorious prison on Lower Manhattan, as well as working with runaway kids and former prostitutes at New York City Covenant House. … Fr. Jim blessed us all by spending a lifetime of giving and never counting the costs.”
Father Joyce was born on Aug. 22, 1945, to John and Marie (O’Dea Joyce) in Brooklyn. After graduating from Regis High School in Manhattan, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1963. Twelve years later, he was ordained to the priesthood. Father Joyce spent decades of his life in service—as a prison chaplain at Rikers Island, as president of “New Jersey’s Jesuit high school,” and in positions of service beyond the tristate area, including West Africa and Jamaica.
At Fordham, Father Joyce was an integral part in building the Bronx Irish History Project, a collection of interviews with Irish American members of the Bronx. Father Joyce had previously worked for peace, social justice, and reconciliation in Ireland in the 1970s.
“Fr. Joyce had a profound love for Ireland and all its people, which I saw throughout our many discussions with the people we interviewed for Fordham’s Bronx Irish Oral History Project,” wrote Cobb, who is BIHP’s research director. “Though Fr. Joyce was dealing with pain from chemotherapy and stage three cancer, he brought humor, warmth, and great stories to our discussions of the Irish in the Bronx.”
Father Joyce also served as superior of Murray-Weigel Hall, a home for retired Jesuits at the Rose Hill campus, from 2009 to 2012. A year ago, he reflected on his time at Murray-Weigel. Father Joyce spent his final years of life in the home that he once led.
“May he now rest from his labors in peace with Jesus whom he served so very well,” reads his full obituary from the U.S.A. East Province of the Society of Jesus.