10 October 2007

by Canon George Burgon

THE REVD James Wolstenhulme, who died on 24 September, aged 87, was affectionately known as “Fr Jim” throughout a priesthood lasting more than 60 years.

Jim was born in Bristol, but his early days were spent in Cowley, in Oxford. No doubt influenced by the Cowley Fathers, after a Classics degree at Leeds University, he entered the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield.

He was ordained deacon in 1945 in Manchester Cathedral, and served his first title at St Augustine’s, Tonge Moor, where he met his wife Marian. They were married at St Augustine’s, but the parish had a policy of having only single curates, so the couple moved to St Margaret’s, Hollinwood, for his second curacy. A third curacy was at St Mary’s, Palfrey, in Walsall, followed by his first living, in 1954, of St Peter’s, Hillfield, Coventry.

In 1956 Jim moved to the parish of St Oswald, New Bilton, Rugby. It was there that he made a name for himself by encouraging a skiffle group in church, and using TV themes for hymns. He was a passionate believer in involving young people and children in the life and liturgy of the Church.

In 1966, Jim moved to the populous parish of St John the Baptist, Kingsthorpe, with St David and St Mark, a suburb of Northampton. He proved to be an assiduous visitor in the growing new areas of housing in his parish, as well as continuing to encourage young people to join youth clubs, uniformed organisations, and church activities.

Jim was a firm believer in the Catholic practices of daily mass, frequent confession, good liturgy, and joyful worship. He was a wise friend and mentor to many, including his fellow clergy. He was also chaplain to two local hospitals in his parish, as well as to the then new Nene College.

When he retired in 1986, Jim became diocesan retirement officer, and lent faithful support throughout the diocese during various interregnums, right up until he was taken ill a few weeks before he died.

When the Church decided that women could be ordained, Jim was one of the first to welcome his new colleagues into the sacred ministry with great courtesy.

Marian died in 2004, but he leaves three daughters, five grandchildren, and a great-grandson, named James after him.

His funeral, conducted by he Bishop of Brixworth, filled the Church of St Alban the Martyr in Northampton, where Jim’s youngest daughter Clare is director of music. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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