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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Fr. Jim Dowds begins new ministry to military families in California

Father James Dowds, a Redemptorist of the Baltimore Province, recently began a new assignment in China Lake, CA, under contract with the U.S. Navy to provide religious and counseling support to active duty military and their dependents at the Naval Air Weapons Station. He will also care for the pastoral needs of the retired military living in the local communities.

Part of the Redemptorist charism is service to the poor and spiritually abandoned. The All Faith Chapel at China Lake had been void of Catholic services since July 31, 2006 due to the unavailability of a Navy or civilian priest to take over the Catholic program.

“It is our (the Naval Chaplain Corps) responsibility to provide religious opportunities for the military in the community,” said Cmdr. Roger VanDerWerken, the Navy chaplain in charge of the chapel’s religious programs. “We were the only base in the Navy Southwest Region that didn’t have either a Navy Catholic priest or a contracted priest. Now all bases within the region have a Catholic priest to serve the needs of the military and their families.”

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A Pittsburgh native, Father Jim isn’t a stranger to the Navy. He joined the Navy in 1974 as a hospital corpsman. He entered the seminary in 1976 and was ordained a priest in 1985. In 1989 he was commissioned in the Navy Chaplain Corps as a reservist, where he completed 20 years. He served in Desert Shield/ Storm with 1st Battalion, 11th Marines. He also served in Guam; the Joint Task Force, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, VA.

Father Jim had a choice of positions, wondering which one he should take. He had never heard of China Lake before. As with many religious people, he left the choice to God. The very next day he received a call from the Region Chaplain asking him to come to China Lake.

Father Jim said: “Jesus often went to the desert to pray. The Lord has called me to the desert several times in my life: the first Persian Gulf War; U.S. Marine Corps exercises at 29 Palms, both as a corpsman and later as a chaplain; and for one year in the semi-arid climate of Guantanamo Bay, which looked more like a desert than not. God has been good to me in the desert and I am happy to be here!”

Father Jim plans to work in conjunction with Father Paul Kado, pastor of St. Ann’s, the local Catholic parish. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said Father Jim. “We won’t duplicate times of our Masses so people can have a choice, giving them more options.”

“We are one Church,” said Father Paul. “We are not two churches, but one. He is ready to help me and I am ready to help him.”

(News Release courtesy of Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, CA)