Denis Blackledge SJ
A jovial Lancastrian, the eldest of four, I grew up in a village where the parish had a wonderful Benedictine priest. I went to Preston Catholic College, a grammar school then run by the Jesuits. I loved it there, and was impressed by the quality and variety of the teachers. Finding learning languages ancient and modern easy, I ended up studying classics at Oxford. I had long had a great desire to be a priest, with an eye to being able to help others to help themselves. Throughout my studies at Heythrop I spent plenty of time in parishes and with disabled people.
I was delighted to spend the first year after priesthood in Rome, where I was a guest student in the Institute of Spirituality at the Gregorian. Once back in England I spent three happy years directing retreats at Loyola Hall in Merseyside before Tertianship in North Wales and London. I was then missioned to Edinburgh city centre as curate and high school chaplain. In the 80s I was superior and principal at Campion House, Osterley, a unique pre-seminary college dealing with men mainly in their 20s.
I was privileged to have seven months of sabbatical with our men in Guyana, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, Zimbabwe and South Africa before going to Preston – like a prophet in my own country! – as parish priest. For the best part of 20 years I had the joy of working on BBC Radio Lancashire every week on the Sunday programme, and even had my own classical music programme. After a move to Blackpool for more parish work, I also had the job of Diocesan Communication Officer for Lancaster Diocese, worked in child protection, and with Catholic Stage Guild North.
I am now parish priest of the parish of St Francis Xavier, Liverpool.
I love and enjoy my priesthood, love being a Jesuit, and celebrated my golden jubilee as a Jesuit in 2011, and my ruby jubilee as a priest in 2013. As for hobbies, I love steam trains, and get to as many heritage railways as possible. Always fighting the flab, I keep reasonably fit with regular swimming, I love reading, and writing, and help on the editorial board of Jesuits and Friends and Portsmouth People diocesan magazine. As well as classical music I love art galleries, museums, and ancient churches and cathedrals, Durham Cathedral being my most favourite building on earth.