Obituary of Rev Joseph Cunningham

2 July 1926 – 27 April 2019

Father Joseph Cunningham, who served for eight years in Ecuador and held a number of appointments across the Archdiocese, died on Saturday 27 April aged 92 and in the 52nd year of his priesthood.

Joseph Cunningham was born at Waterloo, Liverpool, on 2 July 1926, the son of William and Anne Cunningham. He received his early education at St Edmund of Canterbury, Waterloo, and at St Mary’s College, Crosby. After leaving school he worked in the Borough Engineer’s Department for a short period, before being called up, towards the end of the war, to serve in the Royal Navy. He served in the Far East on the cruiser Gambia and was demobbed in July 1948. Returning to his previous job he soon felt called to teaching and went to Strawberry Hill, where he gained a diploma in Physical Education. After teaching for two years he joined a company of chemical engineers and stayed in industry for the next 12 years.

During the time of the Second Vatican Council he felt called to the priesthood and began his seminary training in 1964 at the Beda College in Rome, just as his elder brother Vincent had done in the early 1950s. He was ordained priest at the Basilica of St Paul Without-the-Walls on 30 March 1968.

In August 1968 he was appointed assistant priest to Fr Ernest Gray at English Martyrs, Haydock. He ministered in Haydock for a little over four years before being offered for service with the Society of St James in Latin America. He was accepted by the society for missionary work in November 1972 and he began his language course early in 1973. After three and a half months studying Spanish he was appointed to the parish of Santísimo Rosario, Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he served for the remainder of his five-year term with the society; and with two other priests ministered to a parish of 30,000 souls, most of whom were housed in very primitive, insanitary conditions.

In March 1980 he returned to the Archdiocese and held a series of appointments as parish priest, firstly at St Wilfrid, Stubshaw Cross, until he was appointed to All Saints, Anfield, in February 1987; St Benedict, Warrington, in July 1992; and St Edmund of Canterbury, Waterloo, in December 1995.

He retired in 1997 and lived variously at Nazareth House, Crosby, the old rectory at Our Lady’s, Formby, from 2003, and at a care home in Formby from 2016. His Funeral Mass was celebrated at St Thomas of Canterbury, Waterloo.