U-Mary president | Shea, the priest named to the post, attended JCThe University of Mary has named a 33-year-old parish priest, the Rev. James Shea, as its new president. Starting July 1, he will head the Roman Catholic university whose campus is 38 miles from the Hazelton, N.D., dairy farm where he grew up the oldest of eight children.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — The University of Mary has named a 33-year-old parish priest, the Rev. James Shea, as its new president.
Starting July 1, he will head the Roman Catholic university whose campus is 38 miles from the Hazelton, N.D., dairy farm where he grew up the oldest of eight children.
When he succeeds Sister Thomas Welder, president since 1978, U-Mary officials believe Shea will be the youngest university president in the nation.
Sister Welder announced in May that she would retire next year.
Shea has been the pastor at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Killdeer, N.D., and its mission church, St. Paul’s in Halliday, N.D., since July 2007 and is religion teacher and chaplain at Trinity High School in Dickinson.
The university’s board of trustees selected Shea Thursday evening from a field of 22 applicants. The search committee has been taking and considering applications since August.
Martin White, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, joked with Shea about a possible career goal. White noted that Notre Dame University’s president emeritus, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, became that college’s president at age 35 and by now has amassed more honorary degrees than anyone else.
Though seemingly taken aback at White’s suggestion that he embark on a similar quest, Shea, in response, joked, “I have two years extra.”
Turning serious, Shea said about his youth, “I’m not under any delusions that I don’t have anything to learn.”
He was ordained in 2002, seven years after he left undergraduate studies at Jamestown College to enter the seminary for the Diocese of Bismarck. Since then, his education has taken him to Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and the North American College at the Vatican, where he studied theology under the Jesuits at the Gregorian University.
He has taught religion in Washington, D.C.’s inner city schools, worked at an AIDS hospice, was a chaplain at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis and for three years was an associate parish priest for two Catholic congregations in Bismarck and Mandan, as well as chaplain for St. Mary’s Central High School in Bismarck.
The University of Mary, located several miles south of Bismarck, was started in 1959 by the sisters of the neighboring Annunciation Monastery and now has several satellite campuses, including Fargo, and also holds classes in Dickinson and Jamestown.
On the Web: http://www.umary.edu.
Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Jamestown Sun