In Memoriam

Brother James P. Eckert, C.F.X.

(Brother Campion)

1944 – 2024

Perceptive, outgoing yet private, very humorous yet also serious, down to earth, kind and caring – these are all qualities that I experienced in Brother James Eckert or ‘Campion the Champion’ as he used to call himself! Brother James was born on June 20, 1944, in Brooklyn, New York to Betty (née Rafferty) and Bill Eckert. Jim was the youngest of their three children. His brother Bill and his sister Joan were both tragically killed while Jim was a student at St. Teresa’s Grade school. There he first met the Xaverian Brothers. One can only imagine the trauma that Jim and his parents suffered. Throughout his life, Jim was prone to anxiety. Recently diagnosed with incurable cancer of the esophagus, Jim entered hospice care on April 26th and entered eternal life peacefully Saturday evening, April 27th.

On the occasion of his 40th Anniversary as a Xaverian at Saint Luke’s Church in Stroudsburg, PA, where he was a Pastoral Associate, Jim shared in an interview with the Pocono Record about his call as a Xaverian. “I had the Brothers in school and was very much influenced by them. They were good people, and I want to be like them.” Indeed, Jim realized that aspiration. His life as a Xaverian was grounded in our Fundamental Principles, or rule of life. 

At times you will discover that God’s ways are not your ways,
and God’s thoughts are not your thoughts.
When this happens, try to surrender yourself trustingly
into the arms of your Father,
who knows you, understands you and loves you.
Perhaps you can repeat with your Founder
this simple prayer which he cherished. 
‘O Lord, I cannot understand Your ways, but I must adore them.’ (FP)

Jim was never a complainer. His faith and humor allowed him to surrender trustingly to our Lord. In his own inimical way, Jim often buoyed up others when they were confronting difficulties.

I first met Jim at Xaverian High School, Brooklyn in 1958. The Brothers, in particular, Borromeo and Valentine, greatly influenced many of us. We were in the Day Juniorate Program. Borromeo had a special relationship with ‘Eck’ or ‘the Nose’ as he used to call Jim. Jim transferred to St. Joseph’s Juniorate in Leonardtown, Maryland at the end of our sophomore year. The Brothers’ influence continued. Jim had a special relationship with Cosmas, Mauricius and Constantine (Jim Clifton), who had the glee club. Aspirants had to be in it. While practicing Moon River, Jim Clifton quietly approached Eck and said, “James, just mouth the words.” That became another of Jim’s claims to fame. Upon graduating from Ryken in 1962, he entered Sacred Heart Novitiate and received the Xaverian habit and religious name Brother Campion. In 1968, Jim graduated with his BA degree in Latin. Yet another claim to fame, “I graduated third in my class from CU!” Quickly he added that there were only three in the department. He was a wag. We were assigned to St. Xavier High School in Louisville. Pee Wee Reese, a former Dodger, was on our flight returning home to Louisville. Of course, Jim struck up a conversation. He had grown up very close to Ebbett’s Field. Jim’s assignments took him from Louisville to Leonardtown and Baltimore where he taught religion, humanities, Latin, psychology and did a lot of guidance work. Jim also coached basketball, track and tennis.

Cultivate a sincere friendship and warm affection for your brothers,
for it is in the manifestation of honest fraternal concern
and love for each other that you and they will show
you are sons of Ryken and disciples of Jesus. (FP)

Jim did exactly that. He could fill any room with his warm, humorous, down to earth and caring presence — whether it be a classroom or the community room. He‘d ask students and confrères, “Well, how’s it going?” They always responded. Jim had a great influence on his students. He told them outlandish stories about the 1950’s gangs in Brooklyn — how as the ‘Masked Marvel’ he single-handedly took on the Washington Avenue Hilltoppers, the Bishops, the Lords of Flatbush. The freshmen were gullible. They ate up his stories. As department chair, I had to observe his Latin class. As I entered, he would shout out to the kids, “Who’s your favorite teacher?” “You are, Brother Jimmie!” Wanting to make sure I heard, he would ask again. I would turn to him, laugh and say, “Brother James, I get it!” Jim was the Piped Piper with his students. He knew three secrets about teaching that I feel he learned from Borromeo. Make sure the kids know they are liked; that they feel they belong; that they feel they have something to offer others. Jim created that type relationship with his students. That’s how he treated kids. He enjoyed them. They enjoyed him. Two Xaverian Associates in Louisville, Joe Bergamini and Gary Gruneisen, who had Jim as their freshman basketball coach, attest to this. 

After 20 year teaching high school, Jim wanted to minister to the underserved more directly. For the next 15 years Jim did so. He served at Saint Luke’s in Stroudsburg, PA as a Pastoral Associate. I spoke to the secretary, Ms. Quinn, who told me the people loved Jim and still talk about him. Jim also ministered among the very impoverished in Western Maryland, Genoa, WV, and at St. Raymond’s in the Bronx. He did pastoral care as Director of the community at Xaverian, then at the Malden community. Then Jim retired at Xavier High School, Middletown, CT. There his many personal gifts animated the community. In retirement Jim enjoyed solitude. He spent time translating the New Testament from Greek to English.

As I wrote this In Memoriam, a line from Saint Exupéry’s Little Prince came to mind. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” From a heart gravely wounded as a child, Jim saw what was essential in each person. He accepted his students, taught them and, many times, was the instrument of their healing. Last night, Kenney Gorman sent me a note about one of Jim’s Latin students who shared, “Without Brother Jim’s help, I would never have made it. He tutored me in Latin and listened to me. He frequently picked up a kid’s spirit.” It was a gift. He often heard our Founder say to him, “Jim, as you follow Christ, allow yourself, therefore, to be given away, together with your brothers, as nourishment for others, as bread that is broken.” (FP)

I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger
and whoever believes in me will never thirst…
For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholds the Son,
and believes in him, should have eternal life;
and I will raise him up at the last day. Jn 6:33-35

May Jim now enjoy the eternal peace of God’s Friendship that he shared with so many in life.

Prepared by: Brother Edward Driscoll, C.F.X.

Arrangements for Visitation and Funeral for Brother James Eckert, C.F.X.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

St. John’s Preparatory School Chapel
72 Spring Street Danvers, MA 01923

Visitation 3:00 – 3:45 PM
Funeral Liturgy at 4:00 PM

2 comments on “Brother James P. Eckert, C.F.X.

  1. Tom Leonard (Brother Daniel) on

    Jim was my next door neighbor in Ryken Hall my sophomore year. I was horrible in Latin and he always encouraged me with the subject. I was one of the few that never had Latin in high school most of the Brothers had two or three year background in the subject. I enjoyed playing basketball with him and listening to his stories. He certainly was one of the people as was Brothers Kenny Costello (Kenneth) and Jim Kelly (Louis) who helped me through my first few years at Silver Spring. With their encouragement I did manage to get my degree. I left the Xaverian Brothers and became a public school teacher for over thirty years. I have often thought about my six years as a Xaverian Brother with fondness. I was not surprised to read the wonderful comments about Jimmy’s life as a Brother. He was a gift to so many.


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