Members of the VASJ family bid farewell to school chaplain Fr. Jim Bartlett, SM

It was a bittersweet day in the Viking Village on Wednesday, March 19, when the school held its Feast of St. Joseph Mass, which also happened to be the last Mass VASJ Chaplain Fr. Jim Bartlett, SM, would celebrate with the school.

It seems quite fitting, actually, to celebrate St. Joseph, who is known as a model for fathers and those who educate the young, while also bidding farewell to Fr. Jim, who has been serving God through education for most of his adult life.

“I have felt like a spiritual grandfather to 350 teenagers,” said Fr. Jim during Mass.

VASJ students, faculty and staff bless Fr. Jim Bartlett, SM, during his last Mass as the school's chaplain.

He was so much more than just a spiritual grandfather at VASJ. Fr. Jim was a constant smile in the hallway, a regular presence in the cafeteria, collecting food from students who didn’t want it and redistributing to other students who did. He was someone you could count on for a gentle ear and prayers during difficult times and continuous reminder of the Marianist mission of the school.

Above all, though, Fr. Jim was a loyal friend of the VASJ community.

“This year has made me realize that sometimes we have to take care of ourselves,” Fr. Jim said of his health issues that led to his retirement.

“It has been a privilege for me to serve you and I thank you for allowing me to serve you,” Fr. Jim said. “Please pray for me in the coming months because I am going to miss you.”

The Mass concluded with a presentation of gifts to Fr. Jim and a slideshow tribute showcasing his nearly four-year tenure at VASJ. Rather than redistributing food from his basket, for his last lunch in the cafeteria, Fr. Jim distributed pieces of his farewell cake instead.

“Perhaps our paths will cross again because, ‘Once a Viking, Always a Viking,’” Fr. Jim said in closing to the VASJ family.