Obituary: Msgr. Boxleitner, former Catholic Charities director, was ‘tireless advocate for the poor’
Msgr. J. Jerome Boxleitner, former head of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, devoted his life to bringing hope to the hopeless. No matter who it was or what challenges they were facing, the man known simply as “Box”?to his friends was a constant source of care and support.
“Whether it was kids at St. Joseph’s [Home for Children] who had lost hope, whether it was alcoholics who were dying or inmates at ‘the slammer,’ whom he visited on a weekly basis, on a one-on-one basis Box brought hope and love to as many of the hopeless as he could connect with,” said Brian Short, a former Catholic Charities board chair who worked closely with the priest.
Msgr. Boxleitner died March 14 at the age of 82.
“Box was a great guy who did wonderful things for countless people, both in his role as an agency head but also in his role as a chaplain, as a priest,” Short said. “I will miss him every day as will those who are on the margins of society.”
Making a difference
Msgr. Boxleitner was born in St. Paul in 1931, attended St. Paul Seminary and was ordained in 1956.
He served at Holy Name in Minneapolis for five years before leaving to pursue graduate studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Upon completing a master’s degree in social work in 1963, he became director of Catholic Welfare Services of Minneapolis.
“We know that [in 1977] Box took four struggling agencies here in the archdiocese and consolidated them, gave them a new vision and transformed the way services would be provided to the poor — with dignity, respect and in the most professional way possible. He succeeded in building an agency which locally commanded great credibility and which nationally is still seen as a leader, creative and cutting-edge,” Father Larry Snyder, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and president of Catholic Charities USA, said in his homily during the funeral Mass.
Msgr. Boxleitner would go on to lead the agency for the next 21 years, retiring in 1998.
Under his leadership Catholic Charities grew to an organization of more than 600 employees and more than 12,000 volunteers.
“He was not a manager — although he was always prepared to make tough decisions. He was a leader,” Short said. “He articulated the mission of Catholic Charities clearly and forcefully — to serve the poor. Whether the program was designed to help them transition out of poverty or was simply designed to help those on the street find some comfort now, all were important.”
Msgr. Boxleitner lived on the campus of St. Joseph’s Home for Children during his tenure at Catholic Charities. He ate breakfast there and usually had a line of kids wanting to talk to him.
According to Short, he almost never got through the morning paper. “It was important to Box that throughout his life he dealt with individuals one-on-one,” he said.
Father Snyder, who succeeded Msgr Boxleitner as head of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese before moving to the national office said “it is Matthew 25 that perhaps best defines Box’s life and priorities. His faith, his ministry was totally focused on the corporal works of mercy.”