James Leachman’s profile

James in the gardenProfile

Dom James is a priest-monk of the Abbey of St Benedict in Ealing, West London. 

He is in transition after working at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome from February 2002 to 2015, and now writes and teaches at Ealing.

     He was born and educated in Lincoln and attended Lincoln Grammar School there (now renamed Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School); also attending church there with his parents and belonging to Lincoln Arts Society and the Lincolnshire Naturalists Union. In 1965 he went to Durham University, which had been established in the 19th century near the beautiful Romanesque cathedral.

     James studied biological sciences under Professors Valentine, Tutin and Bellamy, and was also much influenced by two Anglican clergymen in the city of Durham, Canon Arthur Couratin and Canon Richard Bevan, vicar of St. Oswald’s Durham. He subsequently went to St Stephen’s House, Oxford from 1969-1972 in order to train for ministry in the Church of England.

   Dom James first served as curate in Battersea and Greenwich in the Diocese of Southwark from 1972  to 1977. After a sabbatical in Trinidad and Tobago he became a monk of Nashdom Abbey in Buckinghamshire, Diocese of Oxford in 1977 and remained until 1985. There he worked in kitchen and garden and was asked to write on spirituality, ecumenism and monasticism by Abbots Augustine Morris and Wilfrid Weston for the Nashdom Abbey Record and for The Messenger of the Catholic League.

    At Nashdom Abbey he also worked with and was influenced by the Religious Sisters of the Cenacle, who at the time had a nearby retreat centre. Among the greatest contacts were Sr Elizabeth Smyth R.C., Sr Kathleen Lyons R.C., and last of all Sr Peggy Pascoe R.C. Eventually he asked Abbot Weston if he could make a retreat in a Catholic monastery, and he went to Ealing Abbey in the Autumn of 1985, where he was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church on 21st December 1985, Sr Peggy Pascoe, R.C., being his sponsor. He was accepted into the noviciate of Ealing Abbey on 26th April 1986.

   He holds a Bachelors Degree in Joint Honours Botany and Zoology from Durham University, a Master of Arts from Oxford, a Master of Theology from Heythrop College, London University and a Licence in Sacred Liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of  Liturgy (PIL) at the Athenæum of Sant’Anselmo in Rome.

    His Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy, also from Sant’Anselmo is on ‘The Liturgical Theology of Initiation and Eucharist in the Writings of Dom Gregory Dix’. 

    On his return to Ealing Abbey in 1992 from studies in Rome he assisted in the establishment of the Benedictine Study and Arts Centre, where he has regularly taught courses on liturgy and catechesis. He has  also, at the request of Abbot Shipperlee, founded a small periodical Benedictine Culture in which he works with Fr Dominic Taylor, OS.B. and a number of local volunteer staff.

    Though in 2002 he returned to the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at Sant’Anselmo, Rome to help the faculty by teaching Liturgy, Fr James retained strong links with the Benedictine Study Centre in Ealing. He remained Principal of BSAC and continued  to offer some courses at BSAC. This was made possible because Mrs Ann-Marie Ryan has undertaken the administration of BSAC with the assistance, since March 2007, of Mrs Giuliana Taborelli, and since November 2010 by Ms Clare Gogswell, part-time administrators. 

    He was tenured associate professor (extraordinarius) at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy. He is a member of the editorial board of Ecclesia Orans, the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy’s bi-annual periodical, was twice been elected member for four year terms of the Council of the Dean of Liturgy, and member of the Faculty Council. He has regularly taught Liturgical studies at the Beda College in Rome, at Ealing Abbey and elsewhere, is a regular contributor to Ecclesia Orans and to Studia Liturgica. 

    In 2007, with Fr Daniel McCarthy OSB of St Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, James founded and directed the project Appreciating the Liturgy and the publications series “Documenta rerum ecclesiasticarum instaurata”.

    In September 2010 with other founding board members, Abbots Martin Shipperlee, Cuthbert Brogan of St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, Fr Daniel McCarthy, OSB,  Fr James, announced the establishment of a new Institutum Liturgicum in England and Wales. The board members are looking for a permanent home, funding and sponsorship for this venture. In 2012 he was made visiting professor at KU Leuven and in June 2015 will become professor emeritus of Pontifical Institute of Liturgy, Rome.

    In 2014 with Daniel McCarthy and inspired by abbot Owen Purcell he co-founded the project, Generative Communities, which brings together liturgists, Benedictine leaders and social scientists. He is presently editing the volume of papers from the first two colloquia held at St Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, KS.

   In January 2015 he retired from work at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy and began a one-year-processwork-programme in community-facilitation-conflict-resolution


© James Leachman, O.S.B.,  updated 12 February 2015