John McNamee and I were in the same year at Ushaw, from sixth form to philosophy and theology. He got on well with everyone, he was a good all-rounder at sports and we never had a cross word. He has been a great supporter of our college reunions, and his friendship has been valued by us all.
His room-mate for A levels tells the story of their frustration at losing swatting time for exams because of lights out at 10pm, so John installed a light in a wooden cabinet in the corner of their room, where they took it in turns to beat the system with some cramming after dark. I wonder if Bishop John would have still appointed him as his Vicar for Education if he had known of this transgression…..
At Ushaw we called him Jock on account of his Glasgow upbringing. The McNamee family moved from Scotland to Bradford in the 50’s, and it was the Bishop of Leeds, George Patrick Dwyer, who accepted John for training for the priesthood. The family moved again to Manchester, and he was ordained at St Aidan’s Wythenshawe, on 9 March, 1968, for the Leeds Diocese. He was sent as a curate to St Catherine’s, Sheffield, St Peter’s, Doncaster, St Joseph’s, Keighley and The Annunciation, Chesterfield. In 1982 he was appointed parish priest at English Martyrs, Mexborough, and in 1988 to Christ the King here in Rossington, where he remained as parish priest until his retirement in 2015.
So together, we offer thanksgiving for his life with us. I am certain that his bishops, his parishioners, the diocesan finance board and education committee have appreciated his friendship, his conscientiousness, his integrity and his fidelity to his vocation. His close relationship with his sisters, Ann-Marie, Patricia and Eileen, and brother, Jim, has been a life-long family bond that has been a special strength for him and them throughout.
The Eucharist has been at the heart of Fr John’s priesthood. The words “Take, bless, break, and give” make present the gift that Christ made to the Church. In a few minutes we will take the bread, bless it, break it and give it, the mystery of faith. And this speaks to us of Christ’s life in union with ours – we too are taken, blessed, broken and given, for each other. John McNamee was called into life, blessed in some ways, broken in other ways, and given to us to share the journey with us.
Today has been Armistice Day, a day of national and international remembrance and appreciation of service, courage, and humanity. The prayer of Saint Ignatius Loyola that was offered in today’s Armistice Day service in London reminds us of how John lived his life:
to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds.
To toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward
save that of knowing that we do your will.
This verse from the poet, Roy Lessin is entitled “When a loved one goes home”:
Once he saw through a glass darkly,
now he sees his risen Lord.
Once he fought through tests and trials,
now he stands in faith’s reward.
Once he had but partial knowledge,
now he knows as he is known.
Once he walked a pilgrim’s journey,
now his feet are safely home.
His illness was a trial for him. We hope that his family who supported him so well will be comforted by these few words of the mystic St John of the Cross ….
And I saw the river over which every soul must pass, to reach the Kingdom of Heaven,
and the name of that river was suffering ….
and I saw the boat which carries souls across the river,
and the name of that boat was love.