Joe was an only child, born to Joe and Vera on 30 May 1944, and brought up in St Matthew’s Parish, Clubmoor, where he attended the parish school, and tended to be top of the class. Most of his cousins were much older than himself, apart from Elaine, a regular chum. Joe passed his 11+ and went to SFX Grammar School, then sited next to SFX Church near the city centre. From an early age he wanted to be a priest, and when asked by the Head at SFX in 6th form if he’d like to be a Jesuit, he readily said “yes!”. He was only 17 at the time, and had just gained a State Scholarship. Not a sporty type, Joe was a backroom boy at SFX, spending most of his time in labs setting up for classes, or doing all the lighting and technical for the big affair of the annual school play. He had two close friends from SFX, Bernard Aspinall, now deceased, and Bill Ryan, very much alive and a family man and Deacon.
Joe went through the gates of the Jesuit Noviceship in its final year at Manresa House, Roehampton, on 7 September 1961, and took his first vows two years later at Harlaxton Manor, near Grantham. After three years of philosophy at the original Heythrop College in the north Oxfordshire countryside, he went to Campion Hall Oxford and did a degree in physics. He taught at Wimbledon College for a year after that, before being one of the first entrants into Heythrop London in autumn 1970. He was ordained priest at his home parish on 14 July 1973, and stayed in London for his pastoral year, whilst working in St Ignatius Parish, Stamford Hill. He carried on there as a curate until Tertianship at St Beuno’s in North Wales 1976-77.
He had short stints working in parishes in Clitheroe, Manchester, Preston and Stamford Hill until he was made parish priest at St George’s Worcester, where he stayed from 1983-90. In 1991 he moved to Corpus Christi, Boscombe, where he soon became parish priest. After a spell of sabbatical in Brussels – he loved going to Europe! - he spent four years as parish priest in Wardour & Tisbury 1999-2003. Time at parishes in Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Preston and Manchester followed, before he came back home to his native city to SFX in 2016, until he died, collapsing in the sacristy at Corpus Christi Boscombe just before mass on 22 August, and dying two days later in the ITU of Royal Bournemouth Hospital.
Joe had an amazing memory, kept a few very close friends for decades, looked after the Jesuit liturgical Calendar for many years, was “revisor” of all the Jesuit British Province’s Accounts for a long time, kept up his love of photography to the end, had almost certainly supplied in more parishes than any other British Jesuit, as he was always ready to help out. In fact he was due to supply in his home parish of St Matthew’s, Clubmoor, for three weekends in September.
A man of deep humility, a quiet charismatic who for years had the gift of tongues, more than anything, Joe loved the Eucharist, and had an immense reverence for the Real Presence. He also loved to serve others, and nothing was ever too much to ask of him. He’s already much missed, but he’s already enjoying the rest he never gave himself.
Written by Father Denis Blackledge SJ
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