Father James Matthews, who through his ministry in the Archdiocese introduced hundreds of people to the Marian shrines of Lourdes and Medjugorje, died on Saturday 16 January aged 87 and in the 61st year of his priesthood.
James Matthews was born in Bootle on 2 April 1933, the son of Cornelius and Elizabeth Matthews (née Fitzpatrick). He was baptised a few days later at St Francis de Sales, Walton. After attending the local primary school, he entered the seminary at Upholland and was ordained priest by Archbishop John Carmel Heenan in St Joseph’s College Chapel on 12 June 1960.
Following ordination he served for a few months at St Bernard’s, Liverpool, before taking up an appointment as assistant priest at Our Lady’s, Eldon Street, Liverpool, in October 1960. Six years later he was asked to move to St Dominic’s, Huyton, to assist Monsignor Peter Whitty. His curacy at Huyton was a long one, proving the longest continuous appointment of his priestly ministry. He had a particular devotion to Our Blessed Lady and while at St Dominic’s he would take young parishioners and scouts on pilgrimage to Lourdes, introducing many to the shrine. He also set up three HCPT groups and raised thousands of pounds to take hundreds of children from across the Archdiocese, and further afield, to Lourdes at Easter. He would later add pilgrimages to Medjugorje to his portfolio. In March 1982 he moved to St Cyril’s, Netherley, as priest-in-charge, though his time running a parish was relatively brief.
In 1986 he moved to St Ambrose, Speke, to assist Father Charles Canning, with whom he had been a fellow curate at St Dominic’s, Huyton. He spent 11 fruitful years in Speke and he is still remembered well by parishioners. In November 1997 he took up residence at Upholland College and the following March he was appointed chaplain to the community of nuns at the local Carmelite Monastery. In 1999 he resumed parish ministry at Holy Cross, St Helens. He served in St Helens until retirement from parish ministry in September 2009. He would not, however, countenance retiring completely and so the remainder of his life was spent as chaplain to the sisters and community at Ince Blundell.
His Funeral Mass was celebrated on Thursday 28 January at Holy Family, Ince Blundell, followed by burial at St Peter and St Paul, Crosby.