For James P. Sarni, a series of events starting at eight years of age were the beginning of his history of outstanding service to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Born in Los Angeles, Jim was a third grader at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Alhambra when his instincts told him the school was not the right fit. “For a lot of reasons, I felt it wasn’t the best place for me,” Jim recalled. “It was me, not the institution.” Jim remembers the day he expressed his feelings to his mother on the last day of third grade when she picked him up from school. “I thank God my mom listened because it was the right decision for me,” Jim said. “There was little resistance. I do not know if my mother was listening to the Holy Spirit, but my parents supported my desire to change schools. But, clearly, the Holy Spirit was at work.”
While attending public school, his parents enrolled him in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD). “I would go one night a week,” he said. “It was Catechism for students that were Catholic and not attending Catholic school, but for whom religion and faith were very important. I was more engaged because it was not part of my routine during the week and I was not taking it for granted. I could still cultivate my faith, which I did all the way through the eighth grade.”
Jim graduated from Alhambra High School, and went on to earn a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Finance from the University of Southern California. Jim currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Center for Investment Studies and the Board of Leaders at USC’s Marshall School of Business.
Today, Jim is a Managing Principal at Payden & Rygel. As such, he is a member of the Board of Directors, the firm’s Investment Policy Committee and, as a Senior Portfolio Manager, he advises pension funds, insurance companies, corporations, health care providers, universities and endowments. Jim is also a director of the Payden and Rygel Investment Group.
One of the more humbling moments in his life of service to the Church was when he was invited to join the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, more commonly known as the Order of Malta.
“The Order of Malta is a lay order of men and women whose mission is to serve the sick and the poor through hands-on service at local charities that The Order also financially supports,” Jim explained. “The Order runs a free medical clinic in Los Angeles, serves breakfast to the homeless twice a month at the St. Francis Center in downtown Los Angeles, and assembles hygiene kits that are distributed to the homeless on skid row, among its many services.”
Jim especially appreciates Malta’s emphasis on reading scripture every day. “The Order provides a subscription to the Magnificat with its readings of the day, so it’s just like you’re going to Mass every day.” “And, the daily meditation has a connection to the gospel for that day, so it brings the gospel alive,” he said. “I started reading the Magnificat every day which helps me to see how scripture is relevant in our everyday lives.”
In other spiritual endeavors, Jim is actively involved with the Order of Saint Gregory the Great as its Chairman. “It is a lay order, and our mission is to support the priests of the Los Angeles Archdiocese,” Jim explained. “The OSGG Knights and Dames support the House of Prayer for Priests in Los Feliz, so we’re here to support the priests who have done so much for us.”
Jim is the current President of the Pasadena Chapter of Legatus. Legatus is a national group of business leaders whose mission is to promote Catholic values in their business, professional and personal lives.
He also serves as President of the Board of the Pasadena City College Foundation. This connection was made before transferring to USC, when he attended the Pasadena campus for a short time, and met some of his most memorable teachers and advisors. “I met an academic advisor who was absolutely wonderful,” he remembered. “Then, a number of years later, we reconnected. She was on the board of the PCC Foundation and asked if I would consider joining the Board. And, I thought, “How could I not do this for a place that really helped me?”
Looking back on his life, “There are very few things that I would do over in my life, so I’m very grateful,” Jim said. “As Sheryl Crow says, “it’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.”
“God has given me my wonderful wife, Becky, and two daughters, Jessica and Angela, and a sweet West Highland White Terrier, Heather, who help remind me every day how blessed I am!”