James Cardosi-CCThirteen years ago Jim Cardosi’s wife, Cindy, discovered she had little time left to live.

In 2002 she experienced symptoms resulting from a neurological illness that by 2005 would be identified as frontotemporal dementia or Pick’s Disease, which Cindy developed in her mid-40s.

She required full-time care, so Jim retired from the military. They raised five kids together and built their lives around each other.

Jim’s faith kept him poised throughout the illness, and he felt the call to the priesthood before her death. He cared for Cindy until her passing in July 2008 at 51 years old in their Jacksonville, Florida home.

“I was a very happily married man and expected a long life growing old with her,” Jim said. “But that’s not what God had planned for us.”

Born in New Brighton, Pa., in 1955, Jim’s family moved to the Philadelphia area in the mid-1960s. The oldest of five children, Jim’s mother still lives in Norristown. His father died in 1998. His siblings and children all live in the Northeast United States.

Ordained a deacon in May 2014, Rev. Mr. Jim Cardosi will become a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese on Saturday, May 16 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. The following day at 11 a.m. he will celebrate his first Mass at St. Titus Church in East Norriton (Father Leonard Lewandowski will be the homilist), which will be going back to the new priest’s roots.

Deacon Cardosi attended St. Titus School in East Norriton from sixth to eighth grades. After graduating from Bishop Kenrick High School in 1973, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

While at Annapolis he met Cindy and after dating several years, they married at the Naval Academy Chapel on Dec. 17, 1977. That same year he graduated from Annapolis and was commissioned as a Navy pilot. He and his wife built their life together at Fleming Island, Fla.

After his wife died, Deacon Cardosi waited two years to make sure the call to the priesthood was legitimate and not a part of the grieving process. His pastor, Father Donal Sullivan, told him to try the seminary. The only way Jim would know for sure was if he went.

He applied to the St. Augustine Diocese in Florida, received acceptance in 2011 and entered Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary run by diocesan priests in Weston, Massachusetts. At the end of his second year he wanted to transfer to the Philadelphia area so he inquired about acceptance to study for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which was granted in June 2013.

Transitional Deacon James Cordosi holds the cross for veneration during the Good Friday liturgy April 3 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. (Sarah Webb)

Transitional Deacon James Cordosi holds the cross

Deacon Cardosi called the seminary experience joyful but difficult. Juggling coursework, family life and pastoral assignments in the seminary wasn’t easy.

“Somehow the Lord got me through,” he said. “And I always maintained that I would stay the course as long as this is what I thought I was being asked to do.”

Deacon Cardosi’s vocation arises from his gratitude to God. He never felt the call growing up, but he’s a cradle Catholic, a member of the faith since birth, and attended Catholic school his whole life.

One summer Deacon Cardosi had an assignment in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, at St. Paul Catholic Church, where he met Father Silverio “Sal” Di Fazio. A graduate of John XXIII National Seminary, Father Di Fazio found a friend in Jim. The priest’s wife also died early after developing stage four pancreatic cancer. Father Di Fazio will vest the new Father Cardosi at the ordination in Philadelphia.

Although people would laud Father Di Fazio at John XXIII, he told his friend Jim, “You have to make your own imprints on the seminary. Jim will never sound his own trumpet.”

At John XXIII, Jim reunited with his Bishop Kenrick classmate, now Deacon Kevin Mulligan, whom Archbishop Charles Chaput will also ordain May 16.

For years, Philadelphia seminarians studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. Mulligan and Cardosi became trailblazers, the first to study for Philadelphia at John XXIII. Mulligan was instrumental in helping Jim meet Philadelphia priests and bringing him back into the fold.

Jim left Philadelphia at 18 years old in 1973 and returned 40 years later.

“It’s like my sojourn in the desert,” he said.

As a deacon, he was assigned to Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in South Philadelphia with the pastor, Father John Pidgeon.

Joe Cardosi, Jim’s son, will get married at Epiphany Church on June 6 – with his dad celebrating the wedding Mass.

Joe remembered when his dad told him he wanted to be a priest. Joe was a duty officer at the Army’s Fort Richardson, Alaska. In a fireside conference room, Joe thought about his dad’s news as he looked out at the snow. He wasn’t surprised but remembered it being an odd experience. Joe left the Army as Jim made his decision. Joe remembered he spoke to his dad about the possibility of his father marrying him one day.

“All kinds of stuff is happening through the grace of God and my willingness to step forward and to say yes to the Lord’s call,” Jim said.


Freelance writer Brendan Monahan may be reached at bmonahan16@gmail.com. He also has a website, BloggingBlocks.com. Visit the site or like the Facebook page.