Msgr. James E. Mancini, a leader of the Charismatic Renewal and an exorcist in the diocese, died Aug. 9. He was 78.
He was born in North Little Rock on New Year’s Eve 1940, to Giusto “Anthony” and Annunziata “Lucy” Mancini. As a child, he used to pretend to be a priest, playing “Mass” with a circular cut piece of bread and homemade wine, he told Arkansas Catholic in 2016 when he celebrated his 50th jubilee.
He attended St. Patrick School in North Little Rock and Our Lady of Good Counsel School in Little Rock, according to his diocesan obituary. He first heard God’s call during a visit to the seminary during “Seminary Days,” and entered St. John Home Mission Seminary in 1954. He was ordained to the priesthood May 28, 1966, by Bishop Albert Fletcher at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.
Msgr. Mancini served in more than 20 parishes, missions, college campus ministries, prisons and hospitals throughout Arkansas, including in Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Weiner, Marked Tree, De Queen, North Little Rock, Cherokee Village, Engelberg, Walnut Ridge, Tontitown, Huntsville and Bella Vista. His longest stint as a pastor was nine years at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Benton.
Msgr. Mancini was one of the first diocesan liaisons to Charismatic Renewal and chairman of the National Liaisons Committee from 1979-1981. During his travels, he became known for wearing red socks. He was also the spiritual director of the diocesan RENEW program and an exorcist.
He told Arkansas Catholic in 2016 of exorcisms, “They probably think an exorcist should look for demons to throw out. A lot of the exorcist work is tied up in the sacraments, particularly baptism. It’s just the power of God that priests are allowed to exercise,” adding later, “God is good; he wants healing.”
Following his 2010 retirement, he had several health issues including four stents in his heart, sleep apnea and diabetes. He enjoyed praying the rosary and playing cards and games.
He is survived by two sisters, Rose Marie Willingham and Dorothy Harriman.
A vigil service was held Aug. 13 at St. Joseph Church in Tontitown and Aug. 15 at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock. A Mass of Christian Burial was Aug. 16, with burial at Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock.
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