Obituary of Fr. John Windle

There are four trademarks in the life of John Windle, his appetite for travel, his ability to keep coming back from retirement, his love for his family and his love for God.

John was born in Bradford on the 16th June 1939 and was educated at St Bede’s Grammar School from 1950 to 1955. He later attended Campion House in London on a one year course in Latin, Greek and Humanities and afterwards in 1961 attended St Hugh’s Charterhouse Parkminster, a Carthusian community as a postulant for monastic formation. He left the community after a year and eventually settled in Ripon pursuing a horticultural career.

He attended St Wilfrid’s Catholic parish where he helped to run a parish youth group, became involved in parish renewal programs and the ‘People Next Door’ program and other ecumenical initiatives. John also became a member of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It was while at Ripon that John met Mary and they married in 1965. Four children followed, Therese, Clare, John and Louise. In 1972 the family moved to New Zealand where John’s involvement in parish life continued, covering music ministry, voluntary work in the local hospitals and continued commitment to sacramental formation of young people. A fifth child, Jane was born in New Zealand. His family returned to Ripon in 1982 where their sixth child Michael, was born.

In 1985 the family move again to Coalville Leicestershire and in 1987 another move to Retford which became home for the next 15 years. It was while in Retford that John discerned a calling to the Permanent Deaconate and was ordained by Bishop Moverley in 1995 who was also a former student of St Bede’s Bradford. I joined John in Retford when I was appointed to Retford in 1996 and had the pleasure of watching John develop in his ministry. However, all did not go well at first, John’s heart attack happened in December that year, just over four months after my arrival! Thankfully John made a steady recovery assisting me with the liturgies and helping to nurture the spiritual welfare and awareness of the parishioners. John’s prayerful guidance was appreciated by many, he had a gentle nature, and his musical giftedness helped with the development of the liturgies in the parish. 

After many years working in horticulture, John retired in 2002 and moved with Mary to Orkney and then to Northumberland in 2005. Over this period of time John served both in the Diocese of Aberdeen and the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle as a deacon. Mary died in 2007 and John returned to Retford.

While in Retford John approached Bishop John Rawsthorne and was accepted by the Diocese of Hallam for formation for the ministerial priesthood. He trained at Ushaw College over the next two years and was ordained to the Priesthood on the 2nd May 2009. He served at the parish of the Annunciation Chesterfield until March 2011. That year John moved again, this time to discern a possible vocation with the Benedictine Community at Quarr Abbey, Rye, Isle of Wight but returned within three months to the Diocese of Hallam where he served as parish priest at Bentley and Askern until his retirement in 2013. John moved to Sutherland Scotland and then returned again to Orkney in 2014. 

In 2015 John came out of retirement with a desire to serve the Diocese of Hallam again serving as parish priest at St Mary Magdalene Cudworth until 2018 when John returned once more to retired life first living at Retford, then onto Maltby and later to St Thomas More Parson Cross Sheffield where he lived for a time with Fr Callistus. Eventually John moved for the last time to Cirencester and be near his daughter Jane. Due to his poor health John spent a short time in care at Cheltenham and died at Nazareth House on the 1 December 2022. He is survived by his six children, ten grandchildren and with one great grandchild to be expected soon.

John always had an open heart to go wherever he understood where the Lord would call him, an openness shared by his wife Mary. His daily life was rooted in prayer and the willingness to serve God’s people. His musical talent helped to uplift the liturgies of the parishes where he resided and his professional knowledge and expertise in horticulture gave John an insight to the gift of creation and our responsibilities towards the environment and nature. My last visit to John was less than two weeks before he died, John’s last act towards me was to give me his blessings. May John rest in peace. Amen.