Home Obituaries Father Leonard ‘Jim’ Downs, weekend celebrant at beach parishes, dies at 83

Father Leonard ‘Jim’ Downs, weekend celebrant at beach parishes, dies at 83

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Father Leonard "Jim" Downs

The Reverend Leonard James “Jim” Downs died peacefully on Jan. 28, 2024.

He was born in Washington, DC, on Oct. 7, 1940, and grew up in Hillcrest Heights, Md., with his parents Leonard J. Downs, Alta “Lois” Downs, his sister Portia “Betty” Downs Donovan Lichtenberger of Louisville, KY, and his brother Paul Downs of Solomons, Md..

While at Gonzaga High School (Class of 1958), he earned his Eagle Scout award. On graduating from Gonzaga, he attended Saint Charles College in Catonsville, Md. and Saint Mary’s Seminary in Roland Park, Md. Jim had been encouraged to join the seminary by his fourth grade teacher, Sister Koska, with whom he stayed close. He was the celebrant at her Funeral Mass.

Ordained on May 7, 1966 at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC, Father Jim, as many called him, served in several parishes in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington including Saint Mary’s in Rockville, Md., Saint Bernadette in Silver Spring, Md, Mount Calvary in Forestville, MD, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Washington, DC, Saint John the Evangelist in Clinton, Md., Ascension Church in Bowie, Md., and Saint Mathias in Lanham, Md.

In addition to his parish services, he served as an Associate Chaplain at the Catholic Students’ Center of the University of Maryland.  He also served as a chaplain at Doctors’ Hospital in Lanham, Md., and for the National Capital Area Boy Scouts.  He served as a Spiritual Director for the Cursillo Movement and led retreats for Dei Colores.

Father Jim presided over sacraments with grace, humor, and love for his community and for many family members’ weddings and baptisms including the wedding of his sister Betty to Louis Lichtenberger and his brother Paul to Carleen Fletcher.

Father Jim retired in 2009 and moved to Lewes, but continued to serve in five parishes in coastal Delaware, including Saint Michael’s, St. Jude the Apostle, Saint Edmund’s, and Mary, Mother of Peace. Everywhere he served, Father Jim was embraced by his parishioners for his warmth, caring, and his signature jokes, which often held life lessons.

After a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2020, he moved to Grace House Assisted Living in Silver Spring, Md.

He was loved and will be remembered and missed by his brother and sister and by his 9 nieces and nephews and 15 great-nieces and nephews.

Whether he was called Jim, Father Jim, or Uncle Jimmy, his life touched and improved countless others in his eight decades of caring and service to God, his family, and his community.

Visitation was at Saint Mary’s in Rockville, Md., from 3-7 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2024, followed by the Vigil Mass at 7:30 pm.  The following morning at 10 a.m., the Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Father Jim.

His family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Father Downs’ name to the Alzheimer’s Association.