Father James B. Lloyd, CSP
As a boy, Father James B. Lloyd, CSP, garnered much applause after dancing the Argentine tango on stage with his sister. His Russian-Jewish father, a dancer on Broadway, and his mother, an Irish Catholic singer, would often take their children on the road. But that early taste of stardom did not mean Father Lloyd was destined for life as a performer.
“When people asked me if I wanted to be an actor, I said ‘No,’” said Father Lloyd, 94. His father wanted him to be a physician, but Father Lloyd put his own spin on that, too, becoming not only a psychologist but a Paulist priest as well.
Father Lloyd grew up two blocks from and served as an altar boy at the heart of the Paulist Fathers, the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan. He played basketball for and graduated in 1939 from the nearby Power Memorial High School, where the Paulists would often help out the Irish Christian Brothers who ran the school.
“I thought all priests were Paulists,” Father Lloyd recalled with a chuckle. “The Paulists were wonderful preachers with tremendous voices. I was impressed by them.”
“The parish was a social microcosm,” he continued. “You didn’t have to go anywhere else. People would often not leave the neighborhood for weeks. That’s all I knew.”
Father Lloyd began pre-med studies at the City College of New York before transferring to St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
World War II was brewing, and Father Lloyd found it difficult not to go off to battle. In the end, he decided to “give it a shot” and entered the Paulist novitiate at Mount Paul in Oak Ridge, NJ.
“Everybody was enlisting, and here I was going out into the woods somewhere,” he said. Any doubts that he made the right decision were soon abated.
“Three weeks later I thought, ‘This is it. I want it,’” he said, recalling that he would often engage in religious debates with his father.
“My father wanted me to be a physician,” Father Lloyd recalled. “But I liked probing people about God. At the time, the Paulists had the explicit intention of converting America; that was the specific reason I wanted to become a Paulist. I wanted to be a proselytizer.”
After completing his novice year, the future Paulist headed to Washington, D.C., where he attended St. Paul’s College and the Catholic University of America, earning a master’s degree in philosophy in 1945.
Father Lloyd was ordained in 1948, and was immediately assigned to the Paulist missions in Africa, where he served until 1955.
“It was fabulous preaching missions to non-Catholics and giving convert instruction,” he said. “It was great fun.”
Father Lloyd returned to his hometown of Manhattan to serve at the Paulist’s Catholic Information Center. He also served as the coordinator for radio and television for the Archdiocese of New York and hosted television show titled “Inquiry,” where he interviewed the likes of Jackie Gleason, William F. Buckley and Norman Mailer.
Father Lloyd’s next assignment was as president of St. Peter’s College in Baltimore, where he served for three years.
He soon realized that studying psychology would give him additional credibility in his field, and earned master’s degree in clinical counseling form Iona College in New Rochelle, NY, and after his stint in Baltimore, returned to New York City to earn a doctorate in psychology while still preaching and facilitating retreats and parish missions. The advanced degrees gave Father Lloyd “the freedom of moving in different circles.”
“My opinion carried more weight I would not otherwise have had,” he said. “ I could be among non-believers and spread the faith.”
Father Lloyd then went on to direct Iona’s Graduate School of Counseling, where he trained priests, religious and even rabbis from 1974-94.
“We combined psychology and religion as a stepping stone to God,” he said, noting he also served as a chaplain to the New York Police Department for 21 years.
For Father Lloyd, there is no retirement, just a change in direction.
Father Lloyd continues to celebrate daily Mass, maintains a pro-bono private practice for priests and religious, writes books (including “Reflections of a Dionsaur Priest”), blogs and serves as the chaplain for the Sisters of Life, who help women facing crisis pregnancies. He also moderates a chapter of the Courage Apostolate, a ministry to homosexuals who wish to live a life of chastity begun by Servant of God Terrance Cardinal Cooke.
“There is always something to do,” he said. “All good things in my life have come from the priesthood. I have had the opportunity to enjoy myself as life is meant to be enjoyed. You can do some important things, but not as important as the priesthood.”