Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson
Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson

In the year when he is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest, Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson made a special homecoming to the place where he studied for the priesthood.

On May 18, 1968, Father Jameson was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington by Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, an historic church that ultimately would play a central role in his life as a priest. Before his ordination, he studied at Theological College, the national seminary of The Catholic University of America.

Fifty years later in 2018, Msgr. Jameson – the longtime rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral – returned to Theological College to receive its Rev. Gerald S. Brown Award for Excellence in Pastoral Ministry. In 2007, he had received the college’s Alumni Lifetime Service Award.

At the April 18 dinner where the award was presented, Sulpician Father Gerald McBrearity, Theological College’s rector, noted that Msgr. Jameson  “has given his time and wisdom to generations of seminarians,” offering them an “excellent witness of priestly life and ministry.” He noted the priest has “a joyful smile that witnesses to the joy of the Gospel.”

In his remarks, Msgr. Jameson, who is now 75, emphasized the importance of priests bringing Christ to people, not only in the liturgy and sacraments, but also outside the church walls, in the circumstances of their lives.

“I’m a firm believer in the ministry of presence,” he said, adding that his training at the seminary and in the parishes where he did pastoral work as a deacon taught him important lessons that would guide his priesthood. “…Long before Pope Francis began to mention the word ‘accompaniment,’ we knew what that meant. We knew that meant to walk with people, to accompany them on the journey.”

The veteran priest encouraged the seminarians to work together and pray together, and through their experiences at the seminary and in parishes, to learn “to bring the life of Jesus to those around you.”

In a later interview, Msgr. Jameson reflected on the arc of his life, from growing up on a tobacco farm in Charles County, to serving since 1995 as the rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in bustling downtown Washington.

He was born in Washington and grew up attending St. Mary’s Parish and School in Bryantown, where he said he was inspired by the example of his parents, the parish priests and by the School Sisters of Notre Dame who staffed the school.  “Where we lived was very Catholic,” he said. “Everything was tied in with the school and parish.”

Msgr. Jameson noted that he was at Theological College in an exciting time in the Church’s history, as the seminarians studied the documents being issued during the Second Vatican Council and reflected on how to implement those teachings at the parishes where they would serve.

As he studied for the priesthood, he said he was especially interested in the liturgy, and wondered, “How can I as a seminarian and as a priest in the parish make the liturgy come alive for people?”

In the course of his life as a priest, he would have the opportunity to do just that.

As a newly ordained priest, he served as a parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Clinton and then at St. Pius X in Bowie.

In 1973, he was appointed by Cardinal William Baum to serve as director of the archdiocese’s newly formed Office of Worship, work he continued through 1985. During those years, he served as a parochial vicar at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, and he also witnessed history, helping to welcome the future St. Teresa of Calcutta to the cathedral in 1974. When the future St. John Paul II visited Washington in 1979, then-Father Jameson coordinated the pope’s Masses at St. Matthew’s and on the National Mall.

He also helped plan the 1976 International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. That experience, he said, helped him see “much more clearly not just the theology of the Eucharist, but the social justice dimension of the Eucharist… We’re fed by the body and blood of Christ in word and sacrament, so we can be that presence of Jesus to those we meet.”

Msgr. Jameson served as pastor of Holy Redeemer in College Park from 1985-92, and as the archdiocese’s Secretary for Parish Life and Worship from 1992-95, before being named that year as the cathedral’s rector.

For the priest, returning to St. Matthew’s and serving there for the past 23 years has been like coming home. “The cathedral has been a spiritual home to so many people. It has sustained people in good times and bad,” he said.

After the 9-11 terror attacks on the United States, people came to the cathedral to pray, just as they had when World War II ended in 1945, and just as people from all walks of life do there every day.

From 1999 to 2003, Msgr. Jameson presided over the restoration of the cathedral, which included replacing the copper plating on its dome, installing a new slate roof, and restoring its mosaics and murals to their original luster.

Meanwhile, the downtown parish known for its vibrant liturgies has grown to include about 2,500 households, and expanded its outreach to the poor and its Masses and programs for the city’s growing Spanish-speaking community. Msgr. Jameson has noted that the cathedral serves government workers and others employed nearby, and also visitors from across the country and around the world. St. Matthew’s doors are open to everyone. Supreme Court justices and sometimes U.S. presidents attend the cathedral’s annual Red Mass for the legal profession, and its Monday morning breakfast program serves the neighborhood’s homeless.

Being a caring and welcoming community “to those around us and those who come from afar is a key element of what it means to be a cathedral parish,” the priest said in an earlier interview.

In 2015, Msgr. Jameson welcomed Pope Francis at the cathedral’s entrance and embraced the pontiff as he arrived to pray there with the nation’s Catholic bishops.

In his daily life as a parish priest there, he said he also tries to welcome people in joyful and challenging times, preparing couples for marriage, baptizing babies, counseling people facing difficulties, visiting the sick and presiding at funerals

As he has tried to bring Christ’s presence and love to them, he said, “In a very real way, they have shown me who Jesus is.” The priest said it has been a blessing “to be a part of their lives, as they’re a part of mine.”

On Sunday June 10 at 3 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Msgr. Jameson will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.