The Rev. James J. McNamee III

Episcopal priest earlier had been president of Ecumenical Campus Ministry in Baltimore Inc.

  • Rev. James J. McNamee
Rev. James J. McNamee (Baltimore Sun )
March 12, 2012|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

The Rev. James J. McNamee III, a retired Episcopal priest who had pastored St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Annapolis, died Friday of cancer at his home in the Ambassador Apartments in Tuscany-Canterbury.

He was 76.

Mr. McNamee was born in Baltimore and raised in Roland Park.

"His father was killed during World War II and his mother managed apartment houses," said Dr. John W. Payne, Richey Hospice medical director and a boyhood friend.

After graduating from City College in 1953, he studied at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service for two years and spent his junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris.

In 1957, he earned a bachelor's degree in international studies at the Johns Hopkins University, and three years later, earned a master's degree in medieval literature, also from Hopkins.

After graduation from Hopkins, he received a Fulbright scholarship and studied at the University of Liege in Belgium.

Mr. McNamee earned a degree in theology in 1964 from General Theological Seminary in New York City.

After his ordination as an Episcopal priest in 1965, he began his career as a curate at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Catonsville, and in 1966 he joined Old St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Baltimore as an assistant rector.

Later that year, he returned to Paris, where he served as canon of Holy Trinity Pro-Episcopal Cathedral, and during those years there, began working with young college students.

In 1970, he returned to Baltimore, and the next year organized the Ecumenical Campus Ministry in Baltimore Inc., which served the campus chaplaincy needs of college campuses in the Baltimore metropolitan area, at a time of widespread campus unrest.

Mr. McNamee hired a cadre of young college students of all denominations and races to work with college students on their campuses.

Mr. McNamee's program evolved into a national model for college ministry, and in 1976, he was appointed by the national Episcopal Church in New York City to be coordinator of youth and college work at the Episcopal Church Center and to oversee college campus ministries nationwide.

"He brought compassion and professionalism in his role with college chaplaincy that no one else has," said the Rev. Lance A.B. Gifford, former rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Mount Washington and a longtime friend.

From 1971 to 1972, he was visiting professor of philosophy at Peabody Conservatory of Music.

He was named vicar of St. Luke's Episcopal Chapel in Eastport in 1981, which was then a mission church of historic St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Annapolis.

During his nearly two-decade tenure at St. Luke's, Mr. McNamee was able to successfully transform it into an independent parish.

After retiring in 2000, Mr. McNamee moved to an old sea captain's house on Thames Street in Fells Point.

"He was very erudite and a wonderful man who had wide interests," said Dr. Payne. "He was a wonderful preacher and an extremely personable pastor. The parishioners at St. Luke's adored him."

Until his health began to fail, Mr. McNamee assisted at Old St. Paul's.

Fluent in several languages, Mr. McNamee enjoyed traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East.

He was, friends said, a passionate Francophile and a "loyal son of Ireland," said Dr. Payne, who said that he also "introduced me to my wife, Jane, and married us."

Mr. McNamee was an accomplished gourmet cook who enjoyed preparing exotic dinners for his friends.

"He loved to eat and was a fantastic cook whether he was preparing a recipe from France or Turkey," said Mr. Gifford.

"For his favorite place in the world, he would have been hard pressed to pick between Rue Bonaparte in Paris and Ballymaloe House in Ireland," said Jane C. Payne, who is married to Dr. Payne.

In recent years, Mr. McNamee had lived at the Ambassador Apartments.

"He was a loner but not lonely. He had many, many friends on both sides of the Atlantic," said Mr. Gifford.

"Everyone who knew him well loved him a lot," said Dr. Payne.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Old St. Paul's, Charles and Saratoga streets.

There are no immediate survivors.

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