Diamond Jim – an unmarried father to thousands!!
When we refer to “Our Father”, it is usually in prayer, and represents the Big Man above, and “Diamond Jim” has connotations of a Las Vegas casino customer – Father Jim Doherty can justly be called “Our Father” for the parishioners of St Robert’s , for as he celebrated his Diamond Jubilee as a priest on 23rd July 2011 (actual date was ‘22nd’), we all thought of him just as THAT – the loving “Dad” always ready to listen and learn from, seek counsel and share our lives with.
On Saturday, the packed church resembled the O2 Arena for a Take That concert, so packed it was with clergy, parishioners, friends and FAMILY, all dear to Fr Jim, but especially the latter, many of whom had travelled great distances, including a sister from Canada, to share this day.
Father Michael McKenna’s address (and great Book of Revelation!!) was warm, sincere, and very hilarious, and a great tribute to a great man. Turning the clock back and sharing anecdotes and lovely little stories, we saw how he always has been the Great Man we know and love..
Following Mass, everyone joined Father Jim in an afternoon of dining and merriment, culminating in a presentation of parish and personal gifts – overwhelming for Father, but only a fraction of what is deserved. He would not dream of ‘singling out’ any one of these, but what will remain a very poignant memory is the family photo when, in true Alan Titchmarch style, he and Father Lawrence (our “Big Daddy”) each planted a rose bush commemorating their special anniversaries. (60 and 25 years). They both also received a Papal Blessing, an honour greatly deserved by both.
We are very lucky to have these special priests and delighted that Father Jim chose to come home to Morpeth for his retirement.
Diamonds are forever, and we hope that means a great many more years here with us for “Diamond Jim” – after all, the Young ’Un has a lot of catching up to do – ruby, gold, diamond. He will, like us all, need Father Jim.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words – these tell a wonderful story…………..
On Friday evening, June 17th, St. Robert’s Church was host to a wonderful event. Our Parish priest, Father Lawrence Jones was celebrating his Silver Jubilee, marking twenty five years of his priesthood. The church was packed out with the doors standing open and a loud speaker system relaying the Mass to all those seated outside on the grass or in the marquee erected on the field. Representatives had come from all the parishes in which Father Lawrence had served to show their appreciation to him and mark the occasion. A special place was reserved for the family and friends of Father Lawrence.
The entry procession was most impressive. Walking in front of Father Lawrence in his gold vestments, were a group of altar servers from St. Robert’s, ministers from the local Morpeth churches and forty of his brother priests. Concelebrating the Mass on the altar were our own Father Jim Doherty and Father Lawrence’s friends from their days as seminarians, Canon Michael Loughlin from the Middlesborough Diocese and Father Steven Forster who is a chaplain in the British Army.
Father Lawrence chose the Readings to reflect on the service and ministry of the priesthood. Prayers were offered for all bishops and priests, for vocations to the priesthood, for Father Lawrence’s family, for the laity of our parishes and for Father Lawrence himself. The music was a tremendous mix of traditional and modern hymns with soloists and a choir accompanied by the organ, guitars, and flute. Canon Michael gave the homily and spoke at length of the gifts and talents of Father Lawrence, told tales of their youth and praised Father for his warmth and sense of humour and the joy with which he approaches life. Father Lawrence was ordained by Bishop Swindlehurst in St. Cuthbert’s Chapel at Ushaw College on June 21st 1986.He was one of two priests ordained that Summer for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
At the end of Mass, the crowds overflowed on to the field to share a feast put on by St. Robert’s parish. There was a hog roast served by Gebhards and then a delicious array of desserts provided by parishioners. There certainly was something to please everyone! The marquee had been beautifully decorated and the bunting made by the children of St. Robert’s school.
On behalf of St. Robert’s parish, a tribute was paid by Ken Wilson. He reminded us that Father Lawrence had been born in Easington, had gone to Upholland Junior seminary to begin his religious studies, transferring at eighteen to the seminary at Ushaw. We know he did not like Latin although he loves the Latin hymns. We sang the Missa de Angelis at Mass. We also heard how he invented a bingo game based on scriptural references to brighten up a rather boring course!
Mrs. Pat Kennedy spoke on behalf of the parishioners of Kenton and told us how well loved he had been there and that we had better take care of him here in Morpeth! She also referred to the great love Father Lawrence has of the Christmas cribs. Morpeth residents will have noticed the crib that Father Lawrence inaugurated outside our church for the two Christmases he has shared with us in Morpeth. Collingwood House contains many more!
Father Lawrence was presented with many gifts and cards including a painting of the church and a cheque from parishioners. Two younger members of the parish made the presentation and thanked Father Lawrence for his care for the youth of St. Robert’s. Afterwards the musical entertainment was given by Fr Lawrence’s friends.
It was a happy, friendly and very special evening that will be talked about for many a year. Perhaps one of the simplest and best tributes was made by Father Steven Forster the British Army colonel when he said;” In six years time, I will leave the army and will be given a parish. I am going to come and ask this fellow how to do it”.
CLICK HERE for article in the Morpeth Herald