A monk of many talents and services to the Church and its people, a monk and priest with multiple roles, Father James Downey was born in Plattsburg, Mo., September 19, 1920. He attended St. Rita High School in Cameron, Mo., and graduated from Plattsburg High School in 1938.
Professed as a member of St. Benedict’s Abbey July 11, 1942, he graduated cum laude from St. Benedict’s College with a Bachelor’s Degree in economics in 1943 and after theological studies at the abbey was ordained May 25, 1946. He later taught in the college and also did graduate studies in accounting at the University of Illinois and at Fordham University.
Father James began a time of service in parishes attended by the abbey at Saints Peter and Paul, Seneca, Kan., later as chaplain and teacher at Lillis High School in Kansas City, Mo., associate pastor at St. Benedict’s, Atchison, and later at St. Benedict’s, Kansas City, Kan.. The parochial service was interrupted by his being director of public relations at St. Benedict’s College and later he served with Father Brendan, his brother, at the St. Lawrence Student Center, at the University of Kansas, Lawrence. He resumed parish service at St. Patrick’s, Atchison, and St. Joseph’s, Wathena, Kan. He was a vigorous defender of human life from birth to natural death.
In 1980 Father James became the Executive Director of the Institute on Religious Life. Offices were first in Chicago, for a time in Ann Arbor, Mich. They moved back to Chicago, and in 2000, after tireless and very active service on behalf of the Institute, Father James resigned and returned to the abbey.
There he maintained his deep interest in things of the Church, fostered his deep appreciation of Latin as the language of the Church, read Louis L’Amour westerns avidly and smoked his beloved pipes on the abbey front porch with permission of the abbey nurses and away from his oxygen tank.