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Annapolis

‘I couldn’t be happier’: Lifetime of service leads Naval Academy graduate to become Anne Arundel priest

Father Jim Bors at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

Serving others has always been James Bors’ mission in life.

Bors attended the Naval Academy in the 1980s, served in the Navy for seven years after that and eventually became a father, husband, teacher and parishioner in Annapolis. When asked what motivates him to give so much of himself, Bors paraphrases Scripture: “And he who receives a lot, is able to give a lot.”

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On June 18, Bors took the latest step in his lifetime of service. He was ordained by Archbishop William E. Lori at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore and assigned to St. Jane Frances De Chantal Church in Riviera Beach, a stone and brick Catholic parish a short walk from the Patapsco River.

“My whole life has been a great gift from God,” he said in an interview. “I’ve been blessed through my wife, through my sons, through my parish, through my country, through my brothers and sisters in Christ. How can I not just give it back?”

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Despite receiving his new parish assignment more than a month ago, Bors’ office at St. Jane Frances still isn’t quite put together. Pictures of farm landscapes and churches are stacked on the floor by the desk waiting for a place on the white walls that are barren aside from a Navy clock left behind by the previous officeholder. Sitting on the desk is an open box with knickknacks and religious texts waiting to be placed on shelves.

Father Jim Bors at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Catholic Church on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

In the office, Bors, 61, reflected on his new position at a parish that sits only a few minutes from the Naval Academy where his spiritual journey began 40 years ago.

Back then, even though he was raised Catholic in Prince George’s County, Bors hadn’t examined the Bible as thoroughly as some of the othermidshipmen he met on the Yard, he said. Their shared interest in and love for God would prove to be extremely important to Bors’ life.

“By the time I graduated high school I had a relationship with the Lord, but it was just a sprout,” Bors said. “But all that changed when I met my brothers that would invite me to Bible study.”

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1983, Bors served in the Navyfor seven years. He trained to work on submarines all over the country, from Florida to Idaho, where he met his future wife, to Groton, Connecticut, where he attended submarine school.

He spent another 3½ years in Hawaii on a fast attack nuclear submarine, the USS Birmingham.

Following that tour he got orders to return to Maryland to teach at the Naval Academy, where he retired in 1990.

Once Bors and his wife, Shirley, returned to Annapolis, it became clear that staying put was the only option. They raised two boys, Jeffrey and Michael, until Shirley’s untimely death in 2010.

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“It really came out of nowhere. I was a single father in the blink of an eye to a 17- and 19-year-old,“ Bors said.

Bors cherished the time he and his boys had with his wife and said he feels very fortunate that he got to raise his family in Annapolis as his wife wanted. While Bors had multiple opportunities to move somewhere new for work, it was important for him and his wife to offer stability and consistency to their family, which Annapolis provided .

“My wife just loved Annapolis, he said with a grin. “I do too, it’s just got something to it. It’s on the water. It’s historic. We just really wanted to stay.”

Bors’ younger son, Jeffrey, now serves as an officer in the Coast Guard.

“It was cool growing up in Annapolis,” Jeffrey said. “Growing up in the same house, and still having close friends from school is something to cherish.”

They raised their family in the parish of St. Andrew by the Bay in Annapolis and Bors ran Bible study and other faith-sharing programs. It was this connection with his fellow parishioners that he and his family leaned on as they sought encouragement and support following Shirley’s death.

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That life-altering event could have stopped Bors, but instead, it intensified his need to serve, to continue helping the way he felt he had been helped by the congregation at St. Andrew by the Bay.

As time went on, he began feeling as if the priesthood was calling him. He was encouraged by those same parishioners who helped him while he was grieving. It was his sons who would have the final say and they supported their father wholeheartedly.

“When he originally proposed the idea that he would be a priest I admit thinking it was the last thing he would do,” said Michael, Bors’ eldest son, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from Catholic University. “Most kids don’t grow up to see their father become a priest so it was a remote possibility to me, but I know my dad as a man of great integrity so my brother and I knew we would support him in whatever made him happy.”

With his sons’ blessing, he began his journey to the priesthood by moving out to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he studied for seven years. Bors described that time at the seminary as some of the best years of his life.

“I always wanted to help around the church but as a working man, as a husband and a father I was lucky to scratch out the time to lead a Bible study. But during my time preparing for priesthood, I was surrounded by people who were as excited to study and learn about the Scriptures,” he said. “It was like being soaked in a gentle rain then having sunshine every day in the most nutrient-rich soil.”

Borsfinished his time at the seminary earlier this year. He was assigned as an associate pastor to both Saint Jane Frances and Our Lady of the Chesapeake, in Pasadena.

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“I prayed to God to place me where I was most needed and I ended up here,” Bors said. “I couldn’t be happier.”


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