Fr. Jim Connelly, the Superior of Holy Cross House, the community’s medical and retirement facility, continues his moving monthly series on some of the heroic, faith-filled men in Holy Cross who have blazed the path of holiness for the rest of us. Today, we learn about Br. James Lakofka, C.S.C., a devoted son of Mary who even at 93 continues as the Director of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Lourdes.
James Lakofka was born and raised in a Polish neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. When he graduated from high school, he went to work in the office of the Johns-Manville Company in Chicago. Then the United States was drawn into World War II. Lakofka, small of stature and thin, remembers receiving his draft notice and being told to report for a physical. As he left the house he told his mother, “Don’t worry, Mom, they’re only taking football players. I’ll be home for supper.” Four and a half years later, he walked in the front door with, “Hi, Mom, what’s for supper?”
After the war, James returned to his job with Johns-Manville, but he was wrestling with a call to religious life. He eventually quit his job and began to look for a religious community wherein he might test his calling. He proceeded to try several in Chicago. The first one didn’t feel like a good fit. At another, the vocation director failed to show up to keep his appointment. Frustrated, at Christmas in 1948, he went to visit an aunt in South Bend, Indiana, and mentioned his as yet unsuccessful search. His aunt sent him to her pastor, a Holy Cross priest, and by the end of January 1949 he was in Massachusetts as a candidate for the Holy Cross brothers. As time went on, it seemed like a good fit. He professed vows in August 1950 as Brother James.
Brother James’ skills led him to office work in various Holy Cross ministries. He began as a business manager with The Catholic Boy magazine and worked there for seventeen years, until that publication was sold to another publisher. Then he worked in the Indiana Province Development Office and later in the province’s Personnel Office. Along the way he was appointed director of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Lourdes, which had been founded at Notre Dame by Father Edward Sorin in the nineteenth century. At 93, Brother James still serves in this last assignment.
In the meantime, Brother James resided for many years at Moreau Seminary where he became friend and mentor to generations of Holy Cross seminarians. A man of quick wit, genial temperament and a long suffering Chicago Cubs fan, it is a ministry that he still carries on at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, where he lives in retirement.
“The footsteps of those men who called us to walk in their company left deep prints, as of men carrying heavy burdens. But they did not trudge; they strode. For they had the hope.” – Holy Cross Constitutions