Born in 1925, James Moriarty was the oldest of seven boys and one girl. His parents, Thomas and Bridget, were raised on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. They met and married in Chicago.
James was attracted to the priesthood early in his life. Two of his uncles, Monsignor John Moriarty and Canon Myles Moriarty, were priests whom he admired greatly. He also had great respect and regard for the priests who staffed his parish, St. Theodore, at 62nd & Paulina. For five years, he took the El train to Quigley Preparatory Seminary (QPS)on the north side of Chicago. Upon graduation he went on to the University of St. Mary of the Lake seminary in Mundelein, IL where he was ordained in 1951. Four of his brothers also entered QPS and two were also ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Father Moriarty was very proud of his Irish heritage and was a true Hibernophile. He made 24 trips to Ireland, sometimes acting as a tour guide and also spent 6 months studying theology there. He visited the town Inch, on the Dingle Peninsula, where he met his paternal grandmother. His grandfather, school master of Inch for decades, was already deceased.
Father was active in Irish American Affairs for many years. He was one of the founders of the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, which has already been visited by three Irish presidents. He was a member of the Irish Fellowship Club and an organizer of the North Shore Ulster Project, which fostered reconciliation for Protestant and Catholic teen agers of Northern Ireland. He was the editor of the Moriarty Clan Newsletter, which was mailed to over 1200 readers worldwide. He managed to get the Moriarty family a “family unit” slot in the Chicago St. Patrick’s Day parade where they won the parade’s Best Family Unit Award three times.
Father Moriarty first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Ferdinand parish on the north side of Chicago; he served there for 12 years. He then was assigned to St. John the Evangelist parish in Streamwood and was also appointed to the Matrimonial Tribunal of the Archdiocese. This evolved into a full time assignment at the Chancery Office, with a variety of duties, including the Campaign for Human Development.
Then Father was given a major challenge: to launch the Catholic Television Network that would provide multiple channels of programming for Catholic schools and parishes in Cook and Lake Counties. This was a huge project, including the staffing, programming, equipment purchasing and facilities ranging from studios to 3 low-frequency relay towers. The studio was rented by commentator Paul Harvey who became a friend to Father Moriarty.
His next assignment was as pastor of St. Luke parish in River Forest. After 6 years, he was granted a 6 month sabbatical, which he spent in Ireland, studying Vatican II theology. After his return to Chicago, he resided at St. Mary of the Woods parish where his good friend and classmate Fr. Leo Mahon was pastor. Fr. Moriarty was then assigned as pastor of St. Joan of Arc parish in Skokie. When that assignment was complete, Father had reached retirement age. He then became a resident at St. Pius X parish in Stickney for seven years, where he performed an array of his priestly duties.
Father’s arthritis prompted his move to the new Bishop Lyne Residence for retired priests in Palos Park, which had not been available upon his retirement. Fr. Moriarty often said “Thank God for this place, it’s given me and so many other retired priests the opportunity to live in a safe environment and enjoy retirement.” He was active there, arranging events that stimulated a sense of community among his colleagues. It was at one of these events that Father Moriarty suffered a heart attack on February 8 and left this life while surrounded by a number of his fellow priests. God bless you Father.