On the morning of July 24, 2020, Msgr. James Heslin was called to eternal life by the Good Shepherd. Msgr. Heslin served as the pastor of the Cathedral Parish from 1969-1977. Like his predecessor, Msgr. John Burns, he came to the Cathedral from Saint Paul Parish, Jacksonville Beach where he had been pastor.
A son of Ireland, he was born in Leitrim on New Year’s Eve, 1930. He studied for the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s College in Thurles and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of St. Augustine on June 6, 1954. His first assignment was Associate Pastor of Saint Patrick’s Church, Miami Beach.
Apparently, Archbishop Joseph Hurley saw Father Heslin’s leadership when, in 1961 he named him to be the President of the St. Augustine Foundation This would be the organization of the Diocese that would raise funds for the three projects Hurley had determined would be the Catholic Church’s gift to the City of St. Augustine and our 400th Anniversary in 1965 – the renovation of the Cathedral, the building of the Prince of Peace Votive Church and the erection of the Beacon of Faith, the Great Cross. One of Fr. Heslin’s responsibilities was to meet with every pastor of the Diocese and tell them the amount of money their parish would be assessed for these projects. Imagine a young priest, not even 10 years ordained, doing this to men who were 20, 30 and 40 years his senior!
Msgr. Heslin was an adamant supporter of the unborn and often preached about the evils of abortion. He was known to help elderly and poor members of this community by taking them himself to shop for groceries and even paying for them from his own wallet. Msgr. Heslin’s care for the sick and dying showed the heart of a shepherd – a servant-leader – who ministered to God’s flock in the name of Jesus.
Eternal rest grant unto your servant, James, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.