Former parish priest was 'truly a man of God'

Fr Joseph Wareing.
Fr Joseph Wareing.

Tributes have been paid to Fr Joseph Wareing, sometime parish priest of St Michael and St John’s RC Church, Clitheroe, who died earlier this month aged 86 in the 68th year of his membership of the Society of Jesus.

Born in Preston in January 1931, Fr Wareing was educated at Preston Catholic College. There he distinguished himself academically throughout his school career, usually taking a good share of first prizes for his achievements especially in Classical languages, having a keen mind and prodigious memory.

He was not particularly good at physical education (the PE teacher being an ex-army PE instructor, insisting on white treated gym shoes and about one minute in which to get changed), but he took his painful exertions in good spirit and was able to laugh at his own disastrous contortions.

A boy who enjoyed walking, something he enjoyed all his life; early with companions struggling up Fairsnape Fell and descending by Parlick into Chipping for ice cream and the bus back to Preston.

He did not take sides, but expressed his disapproval of controversy by a retiring stance and a sad expression.

In 1949 he left and joined the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Roehampton.

Before ordination to the priesthood, 13 years were spent in study and teaching according to the Jesuit tradition. He studied philosophy and theology at Heythrop in Oxfordshire. In 1962 he was ordained by Archbishop Grimshaw. He studied for his BA in Latin and Greek history at London University. He then taught for three years at St Aloysius College in Glasgow, and next moved to Preston, living there between 1970 and 1981, while teaching at Preston Catholic College (which became Cardinal Newman College in 1978).

During all this time, he kept in touch with his former friends and acquaintances visiting them every year. He would turn up quite unexpectedly on some summer afternoon with his cheerful smile and apologetic manner; a most welcome guest regardless of circumstance and he would share your joys and disappointments, passing on information about your former colleagues’ families, even remembering their children and their birthdays; welcome whenever he appeared, cheerful and gracious.

In 1981 he moved to Clitheroe to become the parish priest of St Michael and St John’s. Whilst at Clitheroe he enjoyed the respect, loyalty and love of his parishioners and the wider community of churches in the town. During this time he was, of course, chairman of the school governors, but he had an aversion to meetings and often unnecessary discussion which was probably understandable. The truth is he had an incisive mind able to discern the best procedure, but his tolerance was such that he respected other views. His speech was “Yea” or “Nay”, an echo of Christ’s injunction.

He was especially diligent in his concern for the elderly and the sick both in their homes and in hospital. In 2006, at the age of 75 he retired as parish priest and moved the Jesuit house in Stonyhurst.

In retirement at Stonyhurst he continued to work in the Clitheroe area, supplying in neighbouring parishes, officiating at funerals of former parishioners and consoling their relatives, enjoying the kindness and companionship of people he knew, but above all, Christlike, visiting the sick and the elderly in their homes and in hospital.

In recent months he moved back to Preston, having to spend a number of periods in hospital. He died in the care of the Jesuit community at St Wilfrid’s where he had begun his life’s vocation; truly a man of God.

Fr Wareing will be received into St Michael and St John’s at 7-30pm on Tuesday and Mass will be celebrated to accommodate those unable to attend his requiem and commendation the following day at 12-30pm to be followed by committal in Clitheroe cemetery.