Father LeBar, Chaplain, authority on cults Father James J. LeBar, chaplain for 23 years at Hudson River Psychiatric Center in Poughkeepsie and an authority on cults and the occult, died Feb. 21 at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie. He was 71 and was in residence at Regina Coeli Church in Hyde Park.
Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, co-vicar of Orange County and pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Newburgh, celebrated the Funeral Mass Feb. 25 at Regina Ceoli. The homilist was Father John J. Backes, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Dover Plains.
“He was a very dedicated and hardworking priest,” Father Backes told CNY. “He was very faithful to the priesthood, and to the notion that a priest was called to serve. He did whatever he was asked to do…Whatever he did, he threw himself into it completely and did it the best he could.”
He added, “He was a very fine listener. He always had time for people, even the ones who called at 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Father George Hommel, pastor of St. John’s in West Hurley-Woodstock, had known Father LeBar since both were boys. He described Father LeBar as “a very holy but quiet person” who was well-liked by those he served.
Father LeBar wrote and spoke widely on the subjects of cults, the occult and demonology. Named consultant on cults for the archdiocese in 1976, he interviewed and counseled former cult members, their families and others. He appeared on television shows including “Geraldo,” “20/20” on ABC, “The Early Show” on CBS, and “Christopher Closeup” as well as EWTN.
He was a founding member of the Interfaith Coalition of Concern About Cults in New York City and received its Distinguished Service Award in 1986.
A longtime member of the New York State Catholic Chaplain’s Association, he chaired several of its committees.
As regional coordinator of the archdiocesan Office of Communications, 1974-1982, he produced a daily cable television program broadcast in the Hudson Valley. He also directed adult and youth retreats in the archdiocese and in the Caribbean, was active in CYO and was affiliated for many years with the Boy Scouts of America.
He was assigned as chaplain to Hudson Valley Psychiatric Center in 1982 and served until his retirement there in 2005. Previously he was a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Poughkeepsie, 1980-1982; St. Stanislaus, Pleasant Valley, 1979-1980; St. Catherine Laboure, Lake Katrine, 1973-1979 and 1965-1967; St. Joseph’s, Kingston, 1967-1973; St. Gregory Barbarigo, Garnerville, 1967; and St. John the Evangelist, White Plains, 1962-1965. He served briefly as administrator of St. Colman’s, East Kingston, and Holy Name of Jesus, Kingston.
He taught religion at John A. Coleman Catholic High School, 1966-1970.
Born in Hartford, Conn., he moved to the Bronx as a child when his parents relocated there. He studied for the priesthood at Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, and was ordained June 2, 1962.
Burial was at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.