Fr. James Conyard
Fr. James Conyard
Jesuit Father James Robert Conyard, 89, died of natural causes on Nov. 26 in Los Gatos, California. A private memorial Mass was celebrated in the chapel at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos.

To honor Father Conyard and his many years spent serving in Oregon, the 12:15 Mass on April 23 at St. Mary Church in Eugene will be a memorial Mass proceeded by a rosary. This date would have been his 90th birthday.

Father Conyard was born in Spokane, Washington, on April 23, 1931, the son of Joseph William Conyard, Sr. and Anne Rose (Jordan) Conyard. The family moved to Portland when he was 6. They attended The Madeleine Parish and later All Saints, both in Northeast Portland. Young James attended the Catholic grade schools and the high school at Central Catholic. He felt God asking him to give his life to something worthwhile as a priest. Keeping that a secret from his family, he sought out the Jesuits and began the application process. Little did he or his brother Joe know, they both were going through the same application process while keeping it private until they were each accepted.

Both brothers entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1949 at Sheridan. Father Conyard often said he was humbled that Jesus still called brothers into the priesthood like he called the apostles James and John.

Father Conyard returned to Spokane 1956-1959 for further studies and for a period of teaching English, Latin, and history and coaching freshman football, basketball, and baseball at Gonzaga Preparatory School. He formed a football team for under-sized freshman which made a deep impression on every member. He was a life-long sports enthusiast. As a spectator, he chose college level sports as a University of Oregon and Gonzaga fan.

Father Conyard was ordained a priest in St. Aloysius Church in Spokane in 1962. Soon afterward, the first marriage he performed was for his brother Bill and new sister-in-law Ann after giving her instructions in the Catholic faith. He was assigned as assistant pastor to St. Aloysius Parish and grade school in Spokane to teach and coach from 1964-1971. He started a parish men’s baseball team that enjoyed many happy years. In 1969, he was sent to the University of Tennessee to learn sign language.

From 1971-1976 he was assigned to St. Jude Parish in Havre, Montana. Traveling with only his dog during a snowstorm, he slid off the road and became stranded. He believed if it had not been for his dog keeping him warm, he would not have survived.

The summer of 1976 was an immersion in Honduras along with other Jesuits. It was dangerous to be in that country and the men came close to losing their lives. A local baker gave his own life to save the priests when he stood up against the rebel regime that tried to force him to kill the clergymen.

In 1977 he served as a retreat director at Holy Spirit Center in Anchorage, Alaska serving on the team for Marriage Encounter and developing other retreats until 1988. He was a sought-after Marriage Encounter priest and he was flown to Eugene to serve on their team. There, he became a Mass celebrant, retreat master and spiritual director at the Carmelite monastery, assisting priest first at St. Paul and then St. Mary Parish, where he helped until 2011. He was a Sunday celebrant for nine years at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Veneta a hospital chaplain at Sacred Heart, teacher at O’Hara School, chaplain for Third Order Carmelites, board member for post abortion retreats, and confessor and spiritual director for many people.

From 2011-2017 he was a pastoral minister at Gonzaga University in Spokane and assisted with Mass for the Poor Clares. His last assignment was a ministry of prayer at the Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Conyard presided at sacraments for family members. He loved to teach about the saints in his daily homilies. People often spoke of his compassion in the confessional and his parting words to give thanks to Jesus for the forgiveness and new start that only Jesus can give. Father Conyard dedicated himself to being available for confession at anytime and anywhere God created the opportunity.

Friends and family call him a quiet, gentle man with an infectious laugh whose only ambition was to be a good and holy priest.

Father Conyard was the last of his siblings. He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, Joseph Conyard, S.J. and William Conyard (Ann), and one sister, JoAnne Shannon (Tom). He is survived by sister-in-law, Ann Conyard (Bill), 11 nieces and nephews, 17 great nieces and nephews, and 17 great, great, nieces and nephews.