Former parish priest dies, 77

Father James Lennon.
Father James Lennon.

A former parish priest who was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Blyth has died at his home in Ireland.

Father James Lennon, who served the Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady and St Wilfrid in the town from 1982 until 2001, died on Friday. He was aged 77.

Fr Lennon’s funeral took place on Sunday in his home parish of Glynn followed by burial at St Mullins. The chief celebrant at the Requiem Mass was Bishop Denis Brennan of Ferns Diocese with 11 other priests concelebrating.

The church was packed with people from the local community and further afield.

Fr Lennon trained as a priest at St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny and came to the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle following his ordination in June 1960. At the time his elder brother, Joseph, was also a priest in the diocese.

His first appointment was as curate at St Teresa’s, Darlington, where after nine years he moved to the Church of the Holy Rosary in Sunderland. He then joined the Catholic Missionary Society where he remained for six years before being appointed as parish priest of St Wilfrid’s.

It was at St Wilfrid’s where the popular and much-loved priest celebrated the 40th anniversary of his priesthood. The following year he was forced to leave the parish because of ill health and returned to Ireland, where he became an assistant priest, serving at the Church of All Saints in Castledockrell, County Wexford. He paid a visit to Blyth in 2002 to receive the Freedom of the Borough.

After nine years at Castledockrell, failing health again forced his retirement and in recent years he has been a resident at Gowran Abbey Nursing Home, where he died.

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell said Fr Lennon “was a well-loved and respected Priest and welcomed everyone into his church regardless of his or her religious beliefs”.

Plans are being made to hold a commemoration Mass at St Wilfrid’s to celebrate the life and priesthood of Fr Lennon.