Lothamer, Father James William, P.S.S.

2019, November 1

Date of Birth: 1942, November 9

The sport of baseball has a position called the “utility fielder.” This player usually does not have a starting role on the team but is capable of playing multiple positions on the field. Fr. Jim Lothamer is like the “utility Sulpician.” His ministry with the Province has had him play teacher, administrator, recruiter, editor, treasurer, and pastor. His diverse ministries are an overt expression of his wide interests and openness to learning throughout his life.

James William Lothamer was born in Coldwater, MI on November 9, 1942 to John and Helen (nee Cox) Lothamer. He is the oldest son from a family of fifteen children. He is survived by his brothers Peter, Jesse, Timothy, Simon, Joseph, Patrick, Jerry, and Christopher, and his sisters Susanne Colligan, Sharon Harrington, Rose Bonvillain, and Helen Malinowski, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Fr. Lothamer earned his bachelor’s degree at St. Charles College in Columbus, OH (1964) and then moved on for theological studies to St. John’s Provincial Seminary, Plymouth, MI where he earned the S.T.B. degree through St. John’s affiliation with The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC (1968). He later earned both the M.A. degree in theology (1972) and also the Ph.D. (1980) from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Ontario.

After ordination to the priesthood for the Diocese of Lansing, MI June 1, 1968, Fr. Lothamer was assigned as a Sulpician candidate to St. Charles College, Catonsville, MD (1968-1969). He stayed on there through the transition of St. Charles College becoming St. Mary’s Seminary and University Liberal Arts College after the closure of the Paca Street campus. He taught there from 1969-1970 and 1975-1977. These years of teaching at the college level were his only teaching experience for the Province.

While finishing his doctoral dissertation, he served as the Director of Recruitment for St. Mary’s Seminary and University School of Theology, Roland Park from 1978-1980. After completing his doctoral degree, he served St. Mary’s again as its Vice-President for Resource/Development (1981-1987) and again as its recruitment director (1986-1988). In that role he was very effective in establishing relationships with many dioceses that were not then sending seminarians to St. Mary’s.

After a sabbatical year (1988-1989), Fr. Lothamer served the Province out of the Provincial House as the Director of Discernment and Admissions (1989-1994) and added to this role that of editor of the provincial publication Update. He then left Baltimore to become pastor in his home diocese at St. Joseph’s Church, Adrian, MI (1994-2000) but continued his connection to the Province through his editorial work for Update and the Generalate publication, Bulletin de St. Sulpice. After another sabbatical (2000-2001), he returned to serve the Province with his pastoral experience to work as the Associate Director of the sabbatical program, Vatican II Institute for Continuing Education of the Clergy, on the campus of St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, CA (2001-2003).

After working with the sabbatical program for priests, Fr. Lothamer returned to his diocese to serve as pastor of St. Agnes Church, Fowlerville, MI (2003-2010). After another sabbatical (2010-2011), Fr. Lothamer continued to provide pastoral service in his home diocese for the Catholic community of East Lansing. In that ministry he was well-loved for his preaching and was able to work closely with the campus ministry program of Michigan State University. He officially retired in January 2013.

Fr. Lothamer was always fond of a good story and of family. He brought these two loves together by serving as the family historian to research its ancestry back through to their roots in Alsace. The results of his research developed a sophisticated genealogy of his family that is now housed in the library of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Even though his family was large with many nephews and nieces, he knew each person from the oldest to the youngest. For them, Fr. Lothamer was a “constant,” always present to family events, interested in each one’s life, and always willing to help. He also enjoyed inviting his Sulpician confreres and other priest-friends into his family to enjoy their hospitality. Fr. Lothamer’s gift of hospitality made him well-loved by his friends who saw how he could bring people together across interests and across continents to make everyone part of his extended family.

Not long after officially retiring, Fr. Lothamer was diagnosed with urothelial cancer. In August of 2016, he underwent surgery to remove his bladder. He recovered well from this surgery and was able to provide pastoral service for St. Mary’s Church, Charlotte, MI (2015-2016), St. Mary’s Church Pinckney, MI (2017) and St. Mary’s Church, Morrice, MI combined with St. Ann’s Church, Bellevue, MI (2017-2018).

While giving many years of pastoral service to his home diocese, Fr. Lothamer remained closely tied to the Sulpician community. He was appointed as Provincial Treasurer in 2015. As a longstanding member of the Provincial Finance Committee, he was already familiar with the financial structure of the Province. But this new position gave him the opportunity to meet with the treasurers of the other provinces to contribute to the worldwide efforts of the Sulpicians.

He was a faithful participant in community gatherings for retreat and convocation. He was a lifelong learner, as he used his sabbatical opportunities to develop language skills in French, German, and Italian. Through his language skills he was able to connect his American family with their European counterparts to create a global family. To keep abreast of current events, he read widely. Together these many interests made him a spirited conversationalist, especially in all matters ecclesial and political.

To say that he loved to travel would be an understatement. But to say, “I have traveled with Jim” would not make you unique. He had many traveling companions over the years! He was the “Rick Steves” of the Lothamer family—full of travel tips and descriptions of his favorites sites that you would just have to see when traveling with him or on your own. He took great delight in sitting in the French/German countryside of Alsace sharing conversation and sipping a fine Alsatian Riesling with his European cousins.

In July 2018, Fr. Lothamer moved back to Baltimore to retire in the Sulpician retirement community of Villa Olier. In Baltimore, he received excellent care from Dr. Hahn, his oncologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and was able to enjoy the companionship of the residence of the Villa, continue to work on improving his Italian through online programs, and, of course, to travel. In October of 2019, he began a trip to Croatia but quickly realized that he would not have the energy to keep up with his planned itinerary. He returned to the States early and underwent tests at Johns Hopkins. The biopsy revealed aggressive cancer moving through his liver. Fr. Lothamer understood the futility of further interventions. With no hand left to play against the stacked deck of cancer, he decided to enter hospice care.

He held in his heart the hands of those with whom he had forged relationships, not only within the Sulpician community but especially in his family and in the communities he served in the diocese of Lansing. These relationships were, in fact, his way of seeing the face of God. One of Fr. Lothamer’s firmest and final requests was that he return to Michigan to live his final days under the hospice care of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI where he would be close to his family and surrounded by the communities he served in his pastoral ministry and whom he held in a special place in his heart. A steady stream of visitors flowed through his hospice room. This network of diverse personal, professional, and social relationships was a tribute to the gracious hospitality for which Fr. Lothamer was known. This network of relationships that filled his life refused to unravel while he lay dying. Fr. Lothamer died on November 1, 2019 after a short stay in hospice.

His wake service and funeral were in his home parish, St. Agnes Church, in Fowlerville. The celebrant of the Mass was his close friend, Fr. Jim Eisele, and Fr. Richard Gula, P.S.S. was the homilist. A service of final commendation was held at St. Ann’s parish, Bellevue, MI, where Fr. Lothamer had last been pastor before moving to the retirement community of Villa Olier. This service was held on November 9, what would have been his 77th birthday. In loving tribute, the service ended with everyone singing “Happy Birthday.” Interment followed in the family plot at Riverside Cemetery in Bellevue, MI. Fr. Lothamer had a hand in planning every detail of these services and in being sure that following each one would be a festive reception where wine and cheese would be plentiful.

The large congregation that assembled for the Vigil Service, the Funeral Mass, and the final commendation served as testimony to the impact that Fr. Lothamer had upon so many lives and to his remarkable capacity to bring diverse people together and to maintain friendships across a lifetime. Through the services of farewell, we return to God the gift we had been given in him and in his service to so many people.

Richard M. Gula, P.S.S.

Director of Personnel