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Celebrating 40 Years as a Passionist Priest

Jul 23 2019, 11:41 AM

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In July 2019, John Sherrington celebrated forty years of being a Passionist priest. The occasion was marked by a celebration and a Mass of Thanksgiving for John’s life and ministry at Hinsley Hall in Leeds.

John’s life as a Passionist priest has been diverse and passionate: over four decades John has walked alongside the ‘crucified ones’ and through his presence and witness many women and men have been reminded of the Passion of Christ. His journey has taken him from the inner-city, to the Philippines and back to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (he was born in nearby Blyth). 

John spent many years working as a road-sweeper as a ‘worker priest’. The worker priest movement began in Belgium after the disaster of war in Europe. It was an outward-facing movement in which priests set aside their traditional social roles to take ordinary jobs, sharing the living conditions and social and economic problems of their co-workers. Their experiences motivated many worker-priests to become politically active, joining their fellow workers in demonstrations regarding such matters as anti-racism, social justice and peace. 

In later years, John became active in supporting people living with HIV and Aids. The 1980s and 1990s was a time of great fear and prejudice directed at people living with HIV and Aids; and John was a powerful presence of solidarity and support for many living with the virus.  John was a chaplain for the Positive Catholics ministry  offering pastoral support to women and men living with HIV and their friends and families. Speaking about John’s ministry, Vincent Manning, Chair of Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support said: 

“The gifts of a priest within a fellowship of the weak are so valuable and important. We need the gifts of teaching, and healing, and loving presence. A good priest animates the sacred in ways that are empowering.  John Sherrington has shared the richness of Passionist spirituality with us so generously. We will continue, with the help of the Holy Spirit and each other, to share that great gift of love with others. Thank you, John for your witness and your ministry. Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable and share the place of weakness with us.”

For the Celebration, Catholics for Aids Prevention and Support commissioned an icon of Christ Pantokrator written by iconographer Noreen Thornhill.

This icon was presented to John during the celebration. The sweeping brush symbolises his years as a ‘worker priest’. We give thanks to God for the life and ministry of our brother John, who sadly passed away on 4th February 2020.

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