BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Fr. James Cronk is remembered by his good friends as an exceptional homilist and an artistic priest with a great appreciation for art and beauty.
Fr. Cronk passed away on May 22 at the age of 78.
Born June 17, 1943, in Detroit, Fr. Cronk was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit on June 7, 1969, and went on to his first assignment at St. Angela Parish in Roseville from 1969-71. He served as associate pastor of St. Paul on the Lake in Grosse Pointe Farms (1971-76), St. Patrick in White Lake (1976), and St. Dennis in Royal Oak (1976-77), before being named pastor of Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Waterford in 1977.
Fr. Cronk served the Waterford community for 12 years until he was named the founding pastor of St. James Parish in Novi in 1989 — one of his proudest accomplishments.
Fr. Cronk served as St. James' pastor from 1989 to 2003, and was pastor of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Beverly Hills from 2003-09. Fr. Cronk most recently served as pastor of St. Owen Parish in Bloomfield Hills from 2009 to 2020, when he was granted senior priest status.
Dennis and Carol Ringvelski were good friends of “Fr. Jim” and were part of the founding group of parishioners at St. James back in 1989. Although they now live in Sante Fe, N.M., they stayed in touch with Fr. Cronk.
“He was interested in you and knew what you were doing, what our kids were doing,” Carol Ringvelski told Detroit Catholic.
Fr. Cronk used to host large Christmas parties, and delighted in decorating for the Christmas season, Dennis Ringvelski added.
"He was certainly very artistic,” Dennis said. “ He loved the color orange and always had as much orange on the walls and everything as he possibly could.”
Fr. Cronk loved to travel to Europe, particularly to London, and was a lover of the arts, including opera, classical music and plays, the Ringvelskis said. Fr. Cronk used to use the lessons of his travels and include them in his homilies.
One of Fr. Cronk's greatest charisms was as a homilist, Carol said. Although they were never long, his homilies were attention-grabbing and always brought the congregation toward a better understanding of the Mass readings.
“He was very well-read, studied history, studied literature … he could bring all of that together in a nice way that was not above the heads of the people,” Dennis said. "He knew how to get to the people, rather than above or below them.”
Fr. Cronk is preceded in death by his parents, Frederic and Madeleine Cronk, as well as two of his sisters, Barbara Fritz and Elizabeth Chorba. He is survived by his sister Joan Fernane and many nieces and nephews, and his dog, Joey.
Visitation took place at St. Owen Parish, 6869 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, on Thursday, May 26, and a funeral Mass was celebrated Friday, May 27.