By Doug Hallett
A memorial service will be held next Monday for Father James Profit, a former director of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre whose religious life led him into community activism in Guelph.
Profit, who stepped down from his post as the centre’s executive director in 2012 because of his illness, died Saturday of cancer at the age of 57. He died surrounded by his large family in Summerside, P.E.I., where he was born as the third of nine children.
Profit, whose name is formally followed by the initials S.J. (standing for Society of Jesus), earned a BA in agricultural science at the University of Guelph and started his journey to become a Jesuit priest in 1980.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1991, he worked as a missionary in Jamaica and later worked with First Nations people on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island before returning to Guelph for good in 1999.
He was “a tall, charming and caring man who was appreciated by Jesuits he lived with and by many others,” said Father Roger Yaworski, S.J., who is the current executive director at Ignatius Jesuit Centre.
“He embodied intelligence and had a twinkle in his eye,” said Yaworski, who as novice director had Profit under his care for two years after Profit joined the Jesuits in 1980.
Profit’s “faith-filled struggle against his cancer, which he believed was related to the illness of the earth itself, has been a source of inspiration to many,” Yaworski said Monday, adding that Profit “never gave up hope for himself or for the earth.”
Profit’s focus was always on ecological issues, and he initiated the development of organic community farming on the 650-acre Jesuit property just north of Guelph’s city limits, Yaworski said.
“His commitment to healthy, sustainable agriculture would mark his entire life.”
Profit “grouped with local farmers and their families, as well as with the social activist community of the area,” Yaworski said.
“With others, he became a leader in a new consciousness that would articulate a fundamental responsibility of all persons and nations to respect and protect the earth.
“Among many who came to work with him and learn from him, he expanded the concerns of ecology to the daily concerns of life and a matter of our innermost spirit.”
Profit was one of the community activists who fought against Walmart’s plans to build on Woodlawn Road, not far south of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre.
“The decade-long Walmart struggle established a coalition of secular and religious Guelphites,” and Profit “was the heart of that cooperation,” said Dennis Galon, who was also a prominent activist in that struggle.
“The afterglow of that common cause, largely because of Jim, was not just abiding friendships, but also a much broader awareness in the city of the environmental activism of the Jesuit Centre and its openness to everyone,” Galon said Monday.
“Not a few atheists in Guelph have expressed surprise that they count a Catholic Jesuit priest as a personal friend,” he said.
“It is not overblown to equate Jim’s breadth of heart in this regard with his fellow Jesuit, Pope Francis.”
Profit was “just a great human being . . . a force of nature,” said Lisa Calzonetti, the Ignatius Jesuit Centre’s director of operations, who took over some of the duties Profit handled until 2012.
“He had a subtlety about him, but he had determination and strength in that subtlety,” Calzonetti said Monday.
Visitation will be held at Holy Rosary Church, 175 Emma St., on Sunday Jan. 19 from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., with prayers at 8 p.m.
A memorial mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Monday Jan. 20 at Holy Rosary Church, followed by a lunch reception at the church. He will be buried that afternoon in the Jesuit graveyard at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre.
“For most Canadian Jesuits, this is where they come to be buried,” Calzonetti said of the Jesuit graveyard located next to Marymount Catholic Cemetery.
A funeral service will also be held on Prince Edward Island this week.
By Doug Hallett