Fr. James Ralph Andres, OFM Cap., was a good listener, humble counselor of faith

Fr. James Ralph Andres, OFM Cap., a Capuchin friar who entered the order at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit and later served as a retreat director of the Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington Township and pastor of St. Ronald Parish in Clinton Township, entered eternal life on Jan. 24 at the age of 88. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Fr. James Ralph Andres, OFM Cap., was a humble friar whose life of service helped countless individuals in Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan and even as far away as Saudi Arabia discover God's love in their lives.

Fr. Andres, who first followed God's call to religious life at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit and later served in southeast Michigan as a retreat director at the Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington Township and as pastor of St. Ronald Parish in Clinton Township, entered eternal life on Jan. 24, 2024, at the age of 88.

James Andres was born June 8, 1935, in Detroit, the son of Otto and Helen Janicki Andres. He grew up with his brother, Harold, and his sister, Lorraine.

James discovered the friars at a young age, and Lawrence Merton encouraged James to attend St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, Wis., where he graduated in 1954. He was impressed with the friars there and was grateful for their positive influence. In the fall of 1955, he entered the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, receiving the religious name “Bonaventure.” On Sept. 1, 1956, James professed temporary vows and entered the clericate at St. Felix Friary in Huntington, Ind., and continued his priestly studies at St. Anthony Friary in Marathon, Wis.

Fr. Andres was ordained to the priesthood on April 20, 1963, by Bishop John Patrick Treacy in St. Mary's Church in Marathon, Wis., after which he fulfilled a pastoral year at St. Francis Friary in Milwaukee.

Fr. Andres' first appointment was as associate pastor and chronicler at St. Elizabeth Friary in Milwaukee, at which point he changed back to the use of his baptismal name. In 1968, he became chaplain at the state prison in Marquette, Michigan.

In his career as a pastoral minister, he was engaged in youth ministry, assisting at the Christian Brothers Retreat Center in Minneapolis, where he led retreats for students (1969-71), and at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, where he ministered as a student chaplain (1971-73).

Fr. Andres was called to take the role of pastor at St. Anthony Parish in Saginaw from 1973-78, until his ministry was needed at St. Lawrence Seminary, where he fulfilled the roles of teacher, counselor, local vicar, and director of spiritual formation for five years.

In 1984, he ventured to Saudi Arabia, ministering to the employees of Aramco for three years. Returning to the States, he became the new director of Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington Township, Michigan, a role he embraced for 12 years.

After a sabbatical, Fr. Andres entered parish ministry at St. Ronald Parish in Clinton Township from 2000 to 2010, before returning to retreat ministry at the Capuchin Retreat Center for 12 years before his retirement. In 2022, Fr. Andres returned to the monastery he entered as a novice, now in need of specialized care. In January 2024, he entered hospice care.

Dawn Bartolomeo, writing an online tribute for Fr. Andres, said the friar leaves behind “a profound void, yet his gentle spirit continues to surround and guide us all.”

“Father Jim was a man of humble beginnings, but he was rich in many ways that could not be measured by material possessions. He was rich in wisdom, in kindness, in love. He was the kind of man who knew the value of honesty and the strength of humility,” Bartolomeo said.

“If you asked him a question for guidance … he would respond with a question to make you reflect so you both collectively could answer the question,” she added.

Suzanne Sebree said Fr. Andres’ presence at the Capuchin Retreat Center was a source of comfort for all who would go there seeking spiritual refuge.

“The Capuchin Retreat Center (was) a wonderful quiet place to go and sit and be with my thoughts and with Jesus,” Sebree recalled in her tribute. “The first time I went there, I happen to meet Fr. Jim, who shared his time, listening to my troubles. Every year I went back he would make time for me. We would pick up right where we left off, and he wasn’t afraid to be open and genuine. He always remembered my story. What a kind, beautiful soul.”

Fr. Andres' compassionate care of the people of St. Ronald Parish left an impression during his 10 years there, wrote Mike and Chris St Onge.

"Father Jim was one in a million. He was so kind," they wrote. "He was such a good listener and loved talking with all. All will greatly miss him, especially those of us from St Ronald. His smile was precious."

As his Capuchin brothers, family, and friends visited him in his final days, he often recalled being grateful for the blessings he had received throughout the diverse ministries he was privileged to serve in. At his diamond jubilee, in 2016, Fr. Andres said he was grateful to the order and the Church, both of which afforded him opportunities to minister and learn so much from so many.

He died peacefully surrounded by prayer on the morning of Jan. 24, 2024. Visitation for Fr. Andres was held Wednesday, Jan. 31, at the Capuchin Retreat Center. Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated there on Thursday, Feb. 1.

Fr. Andres is preceded in death by his parents, Otto Andres and Helen Janicki Andres, and by his brother Harold. He leaves behind his sister Lorraine; and a brotherhood of Capuchins with whom he lived, prayed, and ministered for over seven decades.

Obituaries for clergy and religious who have lived or served in the Archdiocese of Detroit may be emailed to [email protected]. Obituaries are often printed as they are submitted, but may be edited for grammar and style. Detroit Catholic reserves the right to refuse or edit any submissions.


AOD-IAM: July Article Bottom