Father Devine Celebrates 50 Years
Father James was born in 1934 to Thomas, a coffee roaster for the A&P, and Mary, a homemaker. The Devine family lived in Manhattan until they moved full-time to their summer residence in Rockaway Beach when James was ten years old.
Devine soon developed a deep connection to Rockaway’s churches, especially when he became an altar boy.
“I was an altar boy at St. Rose of Lima and it was the first time I can remember thinking about the idea of becoming a priest,” Devine said.
The admiration continued to be entrenched more deeply in Devine after attending St. Francis de Sales School and Cathedral High School in Brooklyn.
“Most of the professors at Cathedral were priests and I came to see them as men of great importance,” he said. “I also saw how they were always there helping people and knew that it was something I wanted to do.”
Devine said he was lucky enough to have his parents support his decision to enter the priesthood. They were church going people and were proud of the idea that this was something he wanted to do.
Devine entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, Long Island in 1954 and was ordained a priest on May 28, 1960. He was assigned as an assistant at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in Bayside, Queens. It was there that he played an instrumental part in starting the C.Y.O. program in the parish.
“The parish had just finished building a new gymnasium and, being the youngest priest there, I was expected to become heavily involved with the project,” he said. “The parents of the children were delighted to be coaches and have their children involved in both basketball and swimming.”
The Diocese recognized Father Devine’s talent in helping build the C.Y.O. program at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament by appointing him the Diocesan Director of the Brooklyn/Queens C.Y.O. program servicing thousands of children.
In 1978, Father Devine was appointed Pastor of St. Rose of Lima in Rockaway Beach, bringing him back to the place in which he grew up and he could not have been more pleased.
“I knew many of the families in Rockaway and was extremely happy to serve them during my years back home,” he said.
In October of 1988, Father Devine was appointed the full time Chaplain to Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Father Devine said the experience of being a Chaplain in the airport was interesting because they put the Protestant church, Synagogue and Chapel all side by side.
Father Devine was in the airport when Pan Am Flight 103 crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland and was immediately sent to console the families of the victims waiting in the Pan Am lounge. He was also at the Travel Lodge Hotel to help family members of victims on TWA Flight 800.
In 1995, Father Devine was appointed one of the first Port Authority Police Chaplains. He encountered yet another episode of tragedy during the September 11 attacks of 2001.
“We lost at least eight policemen from JFK and many more from the Port Authority,” he said. “I did many of the funerals for those lost during the attacks because I personally knew them.”
Father Devine retired in 2006, but still serves as Chaplain to many organizations including the Knights of Columbus in Rockaway Beach.
“Becoming Chaplain was an honor because it was the late Monsignor Burke that wanted me to fill the position and that’s a tremendous honor,” he said.
After 50 years of being in the priesthood, Father Devine feels that the decision was a good one.
“I’m happy for the opportunities I had to help people and received great gratitude from those people which has filled my life with happiness,” he said.
The life he’s lived has been simply divine.