Metro Weekly

Damien Ministries' Nickel Dies

Priest spent over a decade with HIV/AIDS organization

Rev. James R. Nickel, executive director of Damien Ministries, the HIV/AIDS organization inspired by the Catholic Church and located in Northeast, had beaten renal cancer three years ago.

But with the reemergence of the cancer late last year, Nickel was not so lucky, says Rashid Darden, program and development coordinator at Damien Ministries.

Nickel, an ordained priest in the Catholic Church who was known by many as ”Jim,” was taken to Washington Hospital Center in early November and later transferred to the Washington Home, a hospice in Northwest, where he died on Sunday, Jan. 20. He was 64.

”We lost someone who has been a quiet leader in the HIV/AIDS world here in D.C.,” Darden says. ”Someone who [had] great compassion and an extreme talent for pastoral care.

”He was someone who really cared about the retreat program here at Damien Ministries, because so often we focus on the health and the social services, very few organizations also focus on the spiritual life. We were lucky to have someone, who was an ordained, Catholic priest, to be able to share the spiritual sides of healing with our clients.”

Before accepting the executive director position at Damien Ministries in 2004, Nickel served as the organization’s director of administration and pastoral care for a decade.

Otis ”Buddy” Sutson, manager of Damien Ministries’ food bank, which provides HIV/AIDS services for more than 1,000 HIV-positive people in D.C., will serve as the organization’s acting executive director.