Obituary for Father Tom Royce, S.J. - Archived

by Msgr. Robert Siler


Fr. Tom Royce, SJ, died December 6, 2013, at the Jesuit Infirmary in Spokane.  A respected university professor, able administrator, caring pastor, dedicated priest, and loyal Mariners baseball fan are but a few of the many hats Fr. Tom wore during his 87 years of life. 

The fourth of five siblings, Thomas Reilly Royce was born in Spokane, WA, on March 5, 1926, to James Emmett and Lucy Frances (Reilly) Royce.  He entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Sheridan, OR, in September 1943.  Following the regular course of studies Tom was ordained a priest on June 16, 1956, in Spokane.  After ordination, Fr. Royce completed a doctorate in philosophy from the Gregorian University in Rome.  He had a long and distinguished teaching and administrative career at Gonzaga University, ably assisting both lay students and young Jesuits preparing for priesthood.  The faculty and staff at Gonzaga found him to be a supportive colleague, strong advocate, attentive counselor, and a ready friend. 

In 1980 Fr. Royce was appointed the tenth Provincial of the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province.  He was tasked with the spiritual care of some 400 Jesuits in the Pacific Northwest and their associated works (universities, high school, parishes and missions).  With a high level of energy and enthusiasm Fr. Royce carried out this ministry for the next six years.  He started the Jesuit Infirmary, the Regis Community (older Jesuits living among the younger Jesuits), and regularly visited the many works that were sponsored by the Jesuits.  Having completed his six year term as provincial and after a brief sabbatical he was assigned to parish ministry: five years as pastor of St. Aloysius in Spokane, WA, and later as assistant pastor at St. Luke’s in Woodburn, OR, St. Joseph’s in Yakima, WA, and lastly at St. Ignatius in Portland, OR. 


Although passionate about faith, scripture, and philosophy, Fr. Tom was an avid Seattle Mariners supporter.  He followed them from their earliest days, whenever possible listening to games on the radio or watching on TV if he couldn’t make it to Seattle.  Several times Fr. Royce even spent part of his vacation at their spring training and size up their chances for a winning season. 

In the latter years of his life Fr. Tom was afflicted with macular degeneration, which curtailed his driving.  He quickly switched to the bus and train, and gladly accepted rides from friends and co-workers.  Little slowed him down until his diagnosis of cancer, which together with respiratory problems put an end to his active parish work.  He was missioned to join his brother Jesuits at the Regis Community in Spokane to pray for the Church and world and to allow the medical staff to assist in his last stage of life.  Always the priest and friend Fr. Tom began a ministry via phone, email, and in-person to aid those in need of a spiritual and real friend.  All who met with him found joy and happiness even as he was being taken by cancer.  The last month of his life was spent in the Infirmary, ably assisted by the nursing staff and Hospice of Spokane. 

Fr. Royce was the last of his siblings to pass away; he was preceded in death by his older sister Marj DeWeese, and brothers (Rev) Jim Royce, SJ, Bill Royce, and John Royce.  He is survived by seven nephews and nieces, ten grand-nephews and grand-nieces, many cousins, and countless friends as well as his brother Jesuits of the Oregon Province. 

A vigil service was held at 4:00 pm, Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Jesuit House Chapel on the Gonzaga University campus.  The funeral Mass was at 10:00 am, Friday, Dec. 13, at St. Aloysius Church.  Burial followed at the Oregon Province Cemetery.  Contributions in honor of Fr. Tom Royce, SJ, may be sent to The Senior Fund, c/o The Oregon Province Society of Jesus (PO Box 86010, Portland, OR  97286) and/or to Hospice of Spokane (PO Box 2215, Spokane, WA 99210).