Rev. James T. Banas, C.S.C.

Apr. 1, 1930-May 25, 2017

NOTRE DAME, IN– Rev. James T. Banas, C.S.C., 87, died at Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, IN on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

Fr. Banas was born to Stanley and Julia (Purchla) Banas in Chicago, Illinois on April 1, 1930. He attended St. Helen and St. James grade schools before taking his high school classes under the direction of the Holy Cross Brothers at Holy Trinity High School also in Chicago. Upon graduating from Holy Trinity, he spent a year at Loyola University before following his older brother, Fr. Len Banas, C.S.C., to Holy Cross. After entering the Old College candidate program at Notre Dame in September of 1948, he began his novitiate year on Miami Road the next August. He professed first vows August 16, 1950.

Fr. Banas returned to Notre Dame and Moreau Seminary for his college work and graduated in June of 1953. Later that summer, he entered Holy Cross College, Washington, D.C. for the study of theology.Two years later, he moved down the road to the Foreign Mission Seminary to prepare for service in Bangladesh.

Fr. Jim was ordained at Notre Dame on June 5, 1957, by Bishop Leo Pursley. His first two years of priesthood were spent assisting at Notre Dame while doing graduate work in history. After earning a master’s degree in that area in 1959 he began what was to be his life’s work at Notre DameCollegeinDhaka,Bangladesh. The first assignment, to teach English (and occasionally history), remained Fr. Banas’ life-long apostolate.

Father James Banas’ missionary years bore much fruit, especially for the poor of Dhaka and the students of Notre Dame College. His talents were many and his heart was ever-open and filled with Christ-like love for all who approached him. Fr. Banas moved to Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame in 2012 and to Holy Cross House in 2014.

Preceding him in death are his parents, Stanley and Julia Banas, and his brothers Edward, Chester and Valerian Banas. He is survived by his brother, Rev. Leonard Banas, C.S.C. of Notre Dame, IN, and sisters Ann Parme of La Jolla, CA, and Elizabeth Cella of Arlington Heights, IL.

Visitation will be from3:30 to 7:30 p.m.Tuesday, May 30, 2017, at Moreau Seminary, Notre Dame, IN, where there will be a Wake Service at7:30 p.m.The Funeral Mass will be at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the Notre Dame campus onWednesday, May 31, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.

Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online


Wake Eulogy by Rev. James Ferguson, C.S.C. May 30, 2017

First on behalf of the family of Holy Cross gathered here today. I would like to offer condolences to Jim’s family, especially Len, Ann and Elizabeth. We have all lost a brother. In three weeks we will be celebrating the anniversaries of the ordinations of our jubilarians. The first name on the list is Len Banas, celebrating his 65th. The next is Jim Banas who would have celebrated his 60th. Today we celebrate not only his ordination but his life as we send him on to the Lord with our prayer.

Jim is one of those unsung heroes of Holy Cross, unsung mainly because he had only one assignment in life, and that was thousands of miles away in what is now called Bangladesh. This is the most difficult assignment of any in Holy Cross in my estimation. I have seen almost all of our missions as Director of the Mission Center and lived in a few myself. The heat, the congestion, the floods, being part of a minority religion and a minority tribe and the political climate all make great demands on these missionaries. And Jim served here for over 50 years.

Jim left the Foreign Mission Seminary, in 1957 and after preparation to teach history at Notre Dame College, he left for what was then Pakistan. As often happened to missionaries, one ends up doing something else. For Jim it was many thing else. He soon found himself teaching another subject, English. The Bengali speaking students were more in need of English than History it seems. Then, after many years, Bangladesh broke off from Pakistan and Bengali became the medium of instruction. So Jim took his English teaching skills and started a program for teaching English as a second language. English was still needed as the international language and the language of business. His program became so successful that started a teacher training program to teach English as a second language. And I understand that the program was quite a money maker for the College.

Jim’s second interest, more to his liking, was music. Jim was a classical pianist. The United States Information Service invited him often to entertain their guests. They would also rent a tux for him for the occasion. Gifted with this music ability, he studied and played the indigenous music of the Bengali and the tribal peoples. He went to India to study musicology and returned with he ability to play indigenous instruments: drums, tambourines, xylophones. He recorded Bengali music, secular and sacred and produced a song book with over 1500 songs which is sill used in the parishes of the country today. He was also invited to play and also sing Bengali songs and play Bengali instruments on television. Jim also taught music to seminarians, and was the spiritual director of many. Likewise with Fr. Barosse, he saw the need and established another program: the training of spiritual directors.

But Jim did more than sing and play instruments himself. It has been said that he never saw a piano that was out of tune that he didn’t want to tune. With his keen musical ear, he assisted the expatriate community in keeping their pianos tuned. On his home visits to the Mission Center, he could always be found down in the rec room tuning the piano. And he often ended up with pianos of the expatriate community when they left the country. He would renovate them, replace the wires and resell them. Many missionaries returned to Bangladesh loaded down with piano wire. He even constructed pianos and like a good missionary, he trained others to do so and thus worked himself out of a job. I don’t know if this program was a money-maker for the college.

Jim had another interest, the preferential option for the poor, especially the poor of the neighborhood. With George Pope, he ran what was called a “Sick Shelter”, a clinic where the poor came for medicine and if needed a place to stay. Thanks to George and Jim, many of he poor people of Dacca were served and saved. It is nothing elaborate but it continues the mission of the College to his day. He likewise supervised the program for poor students from the parishes. He found work for them to pay their school fees. The students were housed at Fr. Martin Hall, supervised by Bro Rodney Struble and financially assisted for years by Fr. George Rozum with the students of Alumni Hall.

Jim’s inclination to serve led also to nutrition. His interest in cooking got him involved with supervising not only the Holy Cross kitchen but also the College and programs to feed the poor at times of their periodic crises: floods, famines, wars. Thanks to his artistic bent. He left Notre Dame College with a beautiful huge Mosaic at the gate of the College, in the middle of the Muslim City. It was a mosaic of the Blessed Mother. Jim because of his artistic talent, was known to get in trouble with government and religious superiors.

Jim has been described by his contemporaries as kind, gentle, an artist, a wonderful guy, as one who never got angry, a good religious, a good spiritual director, a hard worker, open, laid-back, all characteristics needed by a missionary who lasted over 50 years in a foreign culture. There are a lot of people in Holy Cross who have done wonderful things in their lives, and hardly anyone knows about it. Jim was one of them, at least in the United States. However, according to one person who lived with him many years, thanks especially to his television appearances, there was no one who didn’t know him.

In the parable from the Gospel we just heard, at the final judgment, the King will come and separate the sheep from the goats. To the sheep, he will say: “Come, you are blessed by my father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of he world.”

I have no doubt that our brother Jim will be among he sheep.

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