A passion for bringing out the best in those around him, matched with a profound spiritual life of prayer and devotion, made Friar Jude Rochford OFM Conv. an ideal teacher and guide for people young and old. This was especially true in his 40 years with the growing community of Conventual Franciscan Friars in Zambia, Africa, for whom he was ‘Malama’: a Bemba language name for a caring, firm, and determined mentor.
Fr. Jude passed away on November 27, 2017, in Shakopee, Minnesota. He was born James Loren Rochford on July 16, 1928, in Sumner, Iowa, to Leo and Theresa (Buzynski). He is survived by his brother Gerard and predeceased by his parents, his brother Francis, and his sisters Patricia (Sr. Nora OSF), Mary Ellen, Margaret, and Bernadette (Kindl). He professed Simple Vows July 13, 1947, and Solemn Vows on July 14, 1950. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1955.
After ordination he taught for 11 years at Central Catholic High School in Toledo, Ohio, while completing a Master’s Degree at the University of Notre Dame. During that time he was a member of the Toledo Chapter of the Inter-Racial Council and in 1962 traveled to Selma, Alabama, to participate in a march for voter registration. Following a year teaching at Bellarmine College in Louisville, Kentucky, he was sent to Zambia as a missionary/teacher.
In addition to teaching theology and philosophy (he is especially remembered for his precise logic classes), Fr. Jude served in several administrative and leadership roles while in Zambia. But his greatest influence was in the formation of new Friars, helping them learn and grow in their Franciscan vocations.
Bishop Patrick Chisanga OFM Conv., of the Diocese of Mansa (Zambia) said that Fr. Jude was “one of those ‘angels of the Lord’ who guided me in my first steps of religious life. He left a deep influence on my understanding and appreciation of the Franciscan vocation and priesthood in general…I experienced him as a true son of St. Francis of Assisi with a profound spirit of prayer, simplicity, and particular devotion to Our Lady. He was passionate about providing adequate and integral formation to the future Friars and priests…He balanced well his firmness as a formator with a great sense of humor, which we all enjoyed.”
Recurring medical problems led to Fr. Jude’s return to the US in 2007, moving into a nursing facility near two Friaries in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He spent his last decade in correspondence and prayer, and welcoming family and friends. He continued to stay close to the community he left behind, Bishop Chisanga said, “writing to and praying for the Friars and priests he had nurtured along their vocation journey.”An intellectual spirit with a love of reading and writing, Fr. Jude published two books, Zambian Christian Reflections with Scriptural Readings and Journey to the Priesthood. He shared the books he read with his students, challenging them to read and write themselves.
May he rest in peace.