Monsignor James Oliver McGovern III, the former pastor of an Ellicott City parish who in retirement worked for schools, died of multiple myeloma Dec. 8 at his Eldersburg home. He was 78.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Westowne, he was the son of James Oliver McGovern Jr., an executive vice president of the Lloyd E. Mitchell mechanical contracting firm, and his wife, Mary Ruth Stanton. He attended St. Agnes School and was a 1957 Loyola High School graduate.
He attended Loyola College before entering his seminary studies at the old St. Charles Seminary College in Catonsville. He received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Mount Saint Mary’s University, where he also completed his theological training. Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan ordained him to the priesthood.
Monsignor McGovern served as a deacon at St. Ursula’s Parish in Parkville. After his ordination, he was appointed an associate pastor at St. Rita in Dundalk, then served at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in the Baynesville section of Northeast Baltimore. He later served at St. Luke’s Parish in Edgemere from 1977 to 1981.
He was named pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Cumberland in 1981 and remained there until 1991 when he was appointed pastor of Resurrection Parish in Ellicott City. He retired in 2009.
“He served parishes from Cumberland to Sparrows Point,” said the Rev. Father Michael J. Roach, pastor of St. Bartholomew Church in Manchester, where Monsignor McGovern offered Masses in retirement. “His parishioners loved him. He listened closely to his people. As a retired priest, he worked harder than many priests who are not retired.”
He was named a monsignor by Pope John Paul II in 1996 at the recommendation of Cardinal William Keeler. He also held a church post, vicar forane, for 12 parishes in Howard and Carroll counties from 2001 to 2009.
“He was a humble priest,” said the Rev. Father Christopher Whatley, pastor of St. Mark Church in Catonsville. “He never ceased to want to serve. He was not the type of man who stood by and let others do something. He jumped in and did what he could.”
Monsignor McGovern served five terms on the College of Consultors and several terms as a member of the Presbyteral Council. He was a past chair of the Senior Priest Retirement Board and was a member of the Board of Financial Administration. He also served as a church representative for Seton Keough High School and Holy Angels Elementary School, according to a biography provided by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
In April 1991, Bishop P. Francis Murphy awarded him the Archdiocesan Medal of Honor.
Monsignor McGovern was known for his love of his parishioners — and the outdoors. He could often be found hiking and walking throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
He had a knowledge of buildings and mechanical systems. In retirement, he “adopted” a city parochial school, St. James and St. John on Somerset Street in Oldtown.
“He was a gift to us from God,” said Dr. LaUanah King-Cassell, the school’s principal. “”He came and kept the boiler going, then he would keep our playground together. He would show up and tell me what was wrong with a window. Then the next day he would show up with his equipment to fix it.”
The Morning Sun Newsletter
Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.
“If I tried to give him a gift card, he said ‘Put it into a scholarship for the children,’” Dr. King-Cassell said. “If he had a funeral and was given some money, he would hand it over to the school so a child could get an education.”
His niece, Amanda McGovern Salvage, of Charlotte, N.C., said: “He was kind, gentle, patient and thoughtful. He never forgot a birthday and had spreadsheets to remember everybody down to the church custodian.”
A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City. Archbishop William E. Lori will preside.