The Rev. Robert Christopher Jones, associate pastor of St. Ursula's Roman Catholic Church in Parkville, died Thursday of cancer at Stella Maris Hospice. He was 47.
A member of the Redemptorist order, he was also chaplain of Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson. He led an outreach effort on behalf of orphaned Romanian children.
Friends recalled Father Jones as an adventurous person -- a bearded, tall and rangy man who walked at a brisk pace. He was popular with students at both his Parkville church's parochial school and at Notre Dame, where he often cheered athletes by the track finish line.
A runner, he competed in the New York and Boston marathons. He took long hikes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and up New Hampshire's Mount Washington.
"He never steered off a tough topic," said Bill Waters, a friend and Notre Dame English teacher. "Students gravitated toward him. He had an open heart."
In the 1990s, he joined Notre Dame faculty members and students to minister to Romanian children institutionalized in a remote village in the Carpathian Mountains. He made trips there and urged his parish to donate to this cause. St. Ursula's parishioners responded to his request and gave $17,000 -- the parish's largest donation for any single charity.
"He was tremendously moved by their [the children's] plight and by what he saw," said Monsignor A. Thomas Baumgartner, St. Ursula's pastor. "He also was very gifted at dealing with young people."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Father Jones was a graduate of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help parochial school and St. Mary's Seminary High School in North East, Pa. He played ice hockey, basketball and baseball.
In 1971, he entered the Redemptorist novitiate in Ilchester in Howard County, where he professed his first vows. He received a bachelor's degree in philosophy at St. Alphonsus College in Suffield, Conn. He later studied at St. Alphonsus Seminary in Esopus, N.Y. He held master's degrees in religious education and in divinity.
He was ordained a priest in 1978 by Cardinal Terence Cooke in the seminary chapel.
He was assigned to Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in New York's lower East Side and then to the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston.
Beginning in 1985, he served four years as an associate pastor at St. Mary's parish on Duke of Gloucester Street in Annapolis.
He then served at Ellicott City's Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, where he remained until 1996, when he became associate pastor of St. Ursula's in Parkville.
A Mass was offered yesterday at St. Ursula's Roman Catholic Church, 8800 Harford Road.
Father Jones is survived by his mother, Bridget Mary Jones of Queens, N.Y.; a brother, Gerard Jones of Waterford, Vt.; and three sisters, Nancy Jones of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Debra Ryan of Staten Island, N.Y., and Patrice Halas of White Plains, N.Y.; and four nephews.