Obituary of Canon John Gaine

18 October 1927 – 16 April 2019

Canon John Gaine, parish priest of St Teresa of Avila, Birkdale, for over 37 years, died on the morning of Tuesday 16 April at the age of 91 and in the 68th year of his priesthood.

John James Gaine was born in London on 18 October 1927, the eldest of four children born to Daniel and Brigid Gaine. He received his early education at Birklands Convent School, Highgate, and at St Mary’s College, Crosby. Later he entered St Joseph’s College, Upholland, to begin seminary training. Being too young to be ordained with his classmates in the summer of 1951, he was ordained priest by Bishop Joseph Halsall, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, just three days after his 24th birthday at Holy Cross, St Helens, on 21 October 1951.

Following ordination he went to the Institut Superieur de Philosophie, Louvain, where he completed a licentiate in philosophy. Returning to the Archdiocese in the summer of 1955 he joined the teaching staff at Upholland where he taught philosophy until the transfer of the senior seminary to Ushaw in 1975. He was actively involved in the delicate transfer process and was one of the few members of the teaching staff to move to Ushaw, where he served as vice-president from 1975 until 1979.

In September 1979 he was appointed parish priest at St Teresa’s, Birkdale; his only parish appointment in an active priestly ministry of over 60 years. There he applied the same meticulous approach that had informed his teaching to the needs of his parishioners, visiting them and celebrating the Sacraments for them. His zeal for priestly ministry remained undimmed and it was only his increasing physical frailty that forced his retirement to Formby in April 2017.

For his distinguished service to the diocese and the wider Church he was appointed firstly as an honorary Canon in February 1991 and then raised to the Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter in 1998.

In the late 1960s he was approached by Bishop Thomas Holland of Salford to see if he would join a committee of the Bishops’ Conference which mirrored the work of what eventually became the Secretariat for Non-Believers and later the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers. For 30 years or so he made the journey to London two or three times a year for meetings of this committee. He had a clear vision of what really threatened faith and, equally important, of what only claimed to threaten it. His down-to-earth realism together with his familiarity with the main atheist currents in philosophy were extremely useful, and his humour, expressed in his characteristic diction, made meetings not only valuable but also great fun.

For nearly 40 years he was a trustee of the Sherburne Heatley Trust, a small charity set up in 1845 to support mainly ecclesiastical education for those coming from within the boundaries of the old Lancashire Vicariate. Trustees are always priests of this Archdiocese and John became a trustee in the early 1980s. He was chairman of trustees from 1984 until his death, and always discharged his responsibilities with great care and dedication.

His Funeral Mass was celebrated on Wednesday 1 May at St Teresa of Avila, Birkdale, followed by burial at Sacred Heart, Ainsdale.