Former Heckmondwike parish priest dies, aged 69

Fr John Abberton
Fr John Abberton

A former Parish Priest of Holy Spirit in Heckmondwike has died, aged 69.

Father John Abberton worked in the area for nine years and presided over the centenary of the church in 2014.

A centenary appeal by the parish raised £100,000 and this, together with a grant from English Heritage, enabled the restoration of the church to be carried out to commemorate this landmark in the history of the parish.

Fr Abberton was brought up in Halifax where he attended St Gregory’s Grammar School.

From there he went to St Mary’s College in Aberystwyth before starting his studies for the priesthood at Ushaw College.

During his time there he obtained a degree in theology and anthropology from Durham University. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Wheeler at St Bernard’s, Halifax in 1975.

After his ordination Fr Abberton was appointed as assistant priest at Our Lady of Lourdes, Huddersfield. In 1979 he moved to the Heart parish in Leeds and in 1982 he went to St Robert’s, Harrogate.

In 1987 Bishop Konstant appointed Fr Abberton as Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, Goole where he remained until 1995. In that year began his long association with the city of Bradford. From 1995 until 2002 he was Parish Priest of St Peter’s, Leeds Road and in 2002 he moved to St Mary’s, East Parade. Following the closure of St Mary’s in late 2006 Fr Abberton became Parish Priest of Holy Spirit, Heckmondwike.

In 2015 Fr Abberton returned to Bradford to take up appointment as Parish Priest of St Anthony’s, Clayton. His time there, however, was overshadowed by ill-health and in 2017 he retired to live at Idle on the outskirts of the city, where Bishop Marcus visited him regularly. The Bishop was also with him shortly before he died. Fr Abberton died on Saturday, August 4.

Away from his parish duties, over the years Fr Abberton had been an active supporter of the diocesan Cursillo group, the Charismatic Renewal movement and of the Beginning Experience, which ministers to the recently widowed or divorced. For the last decade and more he was also one of the main proponents amongst the diocesan clergy of the Extraordinary Form of Mass. Starting in 2006, while he was still at St Mary’s, Bradford, he regularly celebrated Mass in this form both in his own parish and elsewhere in the diocese.

Fr Abberton was a man with a wide range of interests, including golf, and the guitar.

Among the people he served over the past 43 years he will be fondly remembered for his dry sense of humour, his sociability and his commitment to the role of the parish in the Christian life.