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Jesuit priest who said his cancer was a ‘gift from God’ dies aged 83

By and on Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Fr John Edwards said after being diagnosed with lung cancer that he had never been so happy

Fr John Edwards said after being diagnosed with lung cancer that he had never been so happy

A beloved Jesuit priest who was well known for bringing people back to Confession and inspiring conversions has died aged 83.

Fr John Edwards passed away on Wednesday evening last week. Following his death, Fr Andrew Cameron-Mowat, parish priest at Farm Street church in London, said: “Fr John was greatly loved by an enormous number of people. His dynamic preaching and his mission work will live long in the memory of all who met him. He brought numerous people into the Church.

“In my short time so far as parish priest it was a blessing to have his presence at daily Mass in the church, and to receive his frequent words of support and encouragement. He was a remarkable example of a faithful and compassionate priest and a generous companion of Jesus. We will all miss him very much, but rejoice that he is now in the arms of our Blessed Lord. May he rest in peace.”

A priest for 49 years, and a member of the Jesuit Community at Mount St for 32 years, Fr Edwards was known to be an excellent confessor who was very successful in encouraging people to attend Confession. He was also a devoted advocate of the practice of receiving indulgences.

Fr Anthony Symondson, a fellow Jesuit priest and a friend of Fr Edwards, said his death was a “perfect end to a very fine Jesuit vocation”.

He said: “He had a very attractive personality in the sense that people warmed to him. Most of his life, since about 1972, was spent trudging around the country in mission, to large churches and small churches, well-known and obscure churches. His missions took a week and ended with an appeal, and he knew how successful he was by the amount of money raised.”

He continued: “John was a holy man, a wonderful confessor. He regularly gave his Confession, he preached brilliantly, and he made the faith something worth believing in. He had a great effect on individual people, he was delightful company and most of all a Jesuit priest.”

After Fr Edwards was diagnosed with lung cancer, Fr Symondson said that he had described it as “a gift from God”.

“He was radiant. I couldn’t believe it. He told me: ‘I’ve just been given a death sentence, and I’ve never been so happy.’ He became radiant with the love of God. He said he never prayed so well.”

Fr Symondson continued: “The heart of John’s genius lay in his ability to make the Catholic faith attractive to people. He changed people’s lives. He had a great sense of humour, he saw the sardonic side of life… I’m going to miss him more than I can say.”

Fr John Edward’s funeral Mass was due to take place at the church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street in Mayfair, London, on December 20 at 11am.

Writing on his blog Fr Tim Finigan, parish priest in Blackfen, south-east London, said Fr Edwards preached about purgatory and the importance of praying for dead. “So let us return that kindness by praying for him,” he said.

  • Fr. Thomas Poovathinkal

    An example of one who took Jesus’ call seriously.

  • Scholar

    An amazing man who lived his vocation to the end. We need more priests like him. RIP Fr. John

  • Erin Pascal

    Being diagnosed with lung cancer and still thanked God for it and considered it a blessing is an extremely difficult thing to do. Most people will even blame God for it and even question His existence but not Fr. John Edwards. A man like him, who has done great things not just for the church but also for others as well will be in the minds and hearts of many people for a very long time.

  • Denis Jackson

    everything is gift, so why not death thru’ cancer

  • anoeyinoe

    ‘A gift from god’  Did he also believe the suffering of little children in Africa was a gift from this holly and mighty being. He also knew how successful he was by the amount of money he made, what a joke and nothing to do with religion. We all know that the Vatican, the most corrupt money orientated church in the world, is only interested in money. It costs them nothing and all they need is your child mind.

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  • Karbowski Counsel

    God is pleased.
     

  • cephas2

    My husband has recently been diagnosed with late-stage cancer. I pray that he might be able to see his last weeks as a gift, through which he can prepare to meet his maker. Please pray for him – he doesn’t have a faith so everything seems so desperate to him.

  • http://twitter.com/morani58 Michael Moran

    I just know we mustn’t look on suffering as a gift from God,or thank god for death in this world that rots but our only duty is to help fellow souls until we are released onto the arm of his Son JESUS where suffering and death is finished.So be it.

  • Carolepatriciairvine

    a long article would not encapsulate all of very dear Fr John Edward’s wonderful gifts of caring, love
    compassion, understanding and wonderful sense of humour.   For me his utter humanity.

  • Carolepatriciairvine

    Fr John Edwards understood the value of redemptive suffering which I found very consoling.
    He still remains very close to me and I  pray for him although surely he is not in need.
    He must be praying for all of us in this vale of tears.

  • Aquinas

    My dear , dear Friend  John taught me so much and  has helped me for over 40 years. I will forever be in debt to him. May he rest in peace and if he continues to do as much to help people while he is in heaven we are so blessed. Thankyou Fr. John, my friend and God’s mouthpiece.

  • aquinas

    suffering can be a gift from God. We can offer it for the good of others and I know that this is just what my dear friend John did.