It is with sorrow that we tell you that Msgr. James Vanderholt, retired priest of our diocese, has passed away August 11, 2021, at the age of 88. When the arrangements are complete, we will post them.
James Frederick Vanderholt was born September 4, 1932, to Charles and Helen Vanderholt, one of three sons. He attended St. Anthony Elementary and High Schools, graduating in 1949. Following his high school graduation he entered St. Mary Seminary, La Porte, to study for the priesthood. He was ordained by Bishop W.J. Nold on May 25, 1957.
Throughout his priesthood Father Vanderholt ministered to parishes and in education, but he was also able to expand into the Communications Field and take time for his hobby of Texas Catholic history and research.
Father Vanderholt loved education, whether it was teaching or learning. He taught at several Catholic high schools and was the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Beaumont Diocese from 1967 to 1975. In addition, he served as Chairman of Education for the Texas Catholic Conference.
But he also had the opportunity to form seminarians. He was rector of Assumption Seminary in San Antonio from 1975 to 1981. Father Vanderholt was also on the Spiritual Formation Team at St. Joseph Seminary in Covington, La., from August 2002 until July 2005.
Also on the college level, he taught classes at Dominican College in Houston, Incarnate Word University in San Antonio and Lamar University in Beaumont and Port Arthur.
In addition, Father Vanderholt continued his own education with a bachelor’s degree from Lamar University, four master’s degrees and a Doctorate of Ministry in 1987 from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
His favorite pastime was Texas Catholic history. Father Vanderholt would take his vacation time to sit in basements and dusty archives researching all sorts of items with Catholic connections but especially Texas priests and the Catholic history of Southeast Texas. He wrote more than 300 biographies of priests. He authored histories of the seminary in La Porte, San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, the Diocese of Austin and the Catholic Church in Spanish East Texas. He was co-author of The Diocese of Beaumont’s history, contributed to the history on Assumption Seminary and wrote the chapter on The Ethnic Story in the Centennial History of Port Arthur 1898-1998. He also contributed entries for the six-volume Handbook of Texas that was put out by the Texas State Historical Society.
The position he held the longest was Director of Communications for the Beaumont Diocese. Though the Communications Ministry he was executive editor of the East Texas Catholic and oversaw it splitting from the Texas Catholic Herald of Galveston-Houston. As executive editor he penned a column which included the names ETCetera and Notes from the Neches. Also part of his Communications Ministry was being host of the Catholic Church Today television show from 1982 to 1994 and the Catholic Times radio show in 1984. He resigned as director of Communications in 2003 but continued writing his column for many years after that.
But through it all he was a parish priest. His first assignment was to Annunciation Parish in Houston from 1957 to 1963. During this time he was also chaplain of Harris County Jail and Psychiatric Ward, chaplain to Memorial Hospital and Medical Arts Hospital, worked with Preston Street AA and was religion teacher at Incarnate Word Academy.
After Annunciation Father Vanderholt was assigned to St. Patrick in Galveston; St. Anthony, Beaumont; Our Lady of the Assumption, Beaumont; and St. Pius X, Beaumont.
Fortunately for Southeast Texas Father Vanderholt was at St. Anne in Beaumont and teaching at Msgr. Kelly High School when the Diocese was formed in 1966. He also ministered at St. Mark the Evangelist, Silsbee; Infant Jesus, Lumberton; St. Mary, Port Arthur; St. Paul, Sabine Pass; St. Charles Borromeo, Nederland; St. Joseph, Port Arthur; St. Joseph the Worker, Dayton; St. Anne, Eastgate; St. Francis of Assisi, Orange; and St. James, Port Arthur.
Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family and friends.
May he rest in the peace of Christ, the Risen Lord.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.