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Homily of the Archbishop of Liverpool, Most Rev Malcolm McMahon OP, at the Requiem Mass of Fr John Seddon, Friday 6 March 2015.
John Seddon RIP.
Deep within us the Lord has written his Law on our hearts. That deep truth was prophesied by Jeremiah and was made real for us in Jesus Christ who came to fulfil the Law. The law as we know it is a law of love – much harder to keep than a law that consists of lists of rights and wrongs. But a big heart can contain more – it contains the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ.
You might have thought that John Seddon would make a great policeman. He was a big bloke with big feet and a big heart. He was just the kind of person we want in our society to uphold the law and keep the peace. But in a peculiar way John’s heart led him to serve the community in a different way as a priest. His calling to serve the community, God’s holy faithful people, as Pope Francis puts it took many forms: policeman, port chaplain, national scout chaplain, Lourdes pilgrim – but they were all encompassed by this big man’s heart. His heart was bursting with love.
The thing about hearts in Jeremiah’s time was that they were understood to be the centre of justice in a person. It was in the heart that you discerned the difference between right and wrong. Hearts weren’t necessarily a place for your affections, but then a law of love is about justice too, and those who knew John would find in him an energy, power, that came from his heart.
That is why we will all miss John dreadfully. Like St Paul, he could be all things to all people. Because he loved people, he absorbed their experiences into his heart. He had what psychologists called empathy, so whether he was dining at the captain’s table of sitting around a campfire eating spuds and sausages he was at home and at ease. That is why priesthood suited John. Through him many individuals found a way to God. In John they found sincerity and authenticity, and with him they broke bread and shared the cup and were true companions on the journey through life.
But I believe that every priest preaches a sermon beyond death. John requested today that we wear white vestments to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that we will all be included in that moment of glory. He is not saying that we shouldn’t pray for him, that he will be pardoned of his sins ( that is our solemn duty) – we must always dare the dead to step into the light with our prayers. He is saying that he wants us to share in the joy that he found in Jesus, and not to be miserable. He is saying that our hope in the coming of the Lord is not optimism but true hope based on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, and he is saying that although life is full of pain it can still be joyful.
Unbeknown to many John had lived with the sickness that killed him for many years. He had received excellent medical treatment and lived a full life – it is a tribute to the knowledge and skill of the medical profession that he was able to live such a varied and energetic life in the service of the Lord. But the Lord had given John great strength to enable him to carry out his work. Every time John went on pilgrimage to Lourdes he must have wondered why he was so blessed when he ministered to the sick. Deep within his heart was God’s love bursting to get out but also within him was a medical condition that was always life threatening. We never know what goes on inside another’s heart, body or mind – except that that person deserves our respect and would be loved by Lord. For many pilgrims John was an embodiment of that love. That is his message for us that we must see the face of Christ in others: the young scout learning to work with others, a seafarer a long way from home, an elderly couple on a Caribbean cruise still seeking some meaning in life, a fellow patient in hospital, a barman in Lourdes or a sick pilgrim. These and many more were to John a reflection of the incarnate God.
It was john’s confidence in the Lord who called him to serve him as a priest that gave John the serenity and courage to look death in the face. He had followed his master, and served him faithfully. Jesus said in the Gospel we have just heard:
“If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.”
So that is our prayer today: Father, forgive John his sins and honour him by welcoming him into your kingdom.
Reproduced by kind permission of Archbishop McMahon.
Words spoken by Monsignor John Furnival at the end of the Requiem Mass for Fr John Seddon.
Mgr Furnival is the Parish Priest of Ss. Peter and Paul, Crosby, where Fr John resided.
Fr. John will be buried at Ss. Peter and Paul’s churchyard, Crosby (where his parents are buried).
There will be refreshments at Ss. Peter and Paul’s and at St. Helens Parish Centre, Crosby.
Thanks to those who have helped to prepare for that in the parish.
It has been a long road we’ve travelled with Fr. John – a journey of joys and sorrows. John always had a good sense of timing – and here we are in the middle of Lent sharing the sorrow of death but anticipating Easter and the Resurrection of the Lord!
John didn’t want anything ambitious for his Funeral – just for his body to be brought on a gun carriage on a barge along the Mersey, to Burbo Bank, and then escorted by outriders through the streets of Crosby to church. (Not quite, John!)
We have had something far better, a great celebration of Christian faith, We could not have held this Funeral at SS. Peter and Paul’s Crosby as is evident from the number of people here, and I am very grateful to all at the Cathedral staff and community and all who have helped in any way in the preparation for the two Masses here in the Cathedral, last night and today. Archbishop Malcolm, Bishop Tom, Archbishop Kelly and all the clergy.... so many thanks.
I knew that John had touched the lives of many people along the way but it is only now, at his Funeral Masses, that I have appreciated HOW many and how DEEPLY , and the extent of the contacts, friends and colleagues that he had. Some people might be surprised at the wide range of people whose lives he influenced.
Represented here last night and today we have his family to whom we promise our continued prayers; also many close friends of John, his fellow-priests, of course the Scouts to which he gave so much time and energy all his life, parishioners from a number of parishes, School Staff and children from Great Crosby Cath. Primary School, Sacred Heart Catholic College, Crosby, and other schools, the Apostleship of the Sea, Seafarers, the Police, former work colleagues, Youth Workers, The Lourdes Association and other pilgrimage groups, musicians and singers, Great Crosby Primary School Choir (thanks to all of them) and maybe even one or two former fellow travellers on the Cruise Liners (John used to tell me on his return what hard work it had been on the cruise…. He took the wind out my sails - as I was about to tell him off!)
All of those represented here and many more I would like to thank today for all their support and prayers.
I loved John as a brother, friend and a fellow-priest and for the inspiring character he was.
A big personality and talent has gone from us, but he will by no means be forgotten.
God bless you for being there for Fr. John and for being here today.
Reproduced by kind permission of Mgr. John Furnival.
Obituary of Rev John Seddon.
Father John Seddon, a former Port Chaplain, Director of the Archdiocesan Youth Service and National Chaplain to Catholic Scouts died on the morning of Friday 27 February at Ince Blundell, aged 62 years. He had been a priest for 29 years.
John Seddon was born in Liverpool on 3 May 1952, the son of John and Mary Seddon. He received his early education at St Peter and St Paul School, Crosby, St William of York School, Thornton, and St Bede’s Secondary School, Crosby. After leaving school he became a clerical assistant at the Inland Revenue, eventually becoming a tax officer, but felt the need to do something else. He joined the Police Force as a Constable for two years, before returning to the Civil Service as an executive officer at the Ministry of Defence. During his time at the Inland Revenue he had become a Royal Naval Reservist and from the age of twenty had started serving as a scout leader. He became involved in the parish at St William of York, Thornton, and was among the founding members of Speakeasy, a discussion and music group for young people. After two of his close friends decided to begin seminary training, it was only a matter of time before the long-standing struggles in discerning his own vocation became more insistent. He eventually applied to start his seminary training and was sent to Ushaw College in 1980.
He was ordained priest by Archbishop Derek Worlock at St William of York, Thornton, on 6 July 1985. Following ordination he was appointed assistant priest at Our Lady of Compassion, Formby, where he remained until August 1989. He then spent a year as Chaplain for the Apostleship of the Sea at Stella Maris, Bootle. Over the years John acted as chaplain on more than 25 cruises, the last on board the Aurora last Easter. In 2012 he gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph about his work as a priest on board cruise ships. He quipped that, ‘We’re actually classified by the cruise lines as an entertainer,’ which in John’s case was probably quite apt, but on a more serious note he also remarked on the various ways in which he could help passengers and crew amid the joys and sorrows of life.
In August 1990 John was installed as Director of the Archdiocesan Youth Service living at St Robert Bellarmine, Bootle. He undertook this role for four years before his appointment as parish priest at St Michael’s, Kirkby. In 1997 he returned to a ministry with young people, this time as National Chaplain to Catholic Scouts, a post he held until his death. John was very proactive in this role. He was instrumental in organising camps for Catholic scouts, including the provision of prayers and reflections to be used. He was, for a time, the religious adviser to the scout movement on Catholic matters, he also chaired an inter-faith committee and he was very involved in the Centenary Jamboree in 2007. On a number of occasions John had the honour to preach at some prestigious venues such as Westminster Abbey and Rochester Cathedral, and for the St George’s Day parade at Windsor, and on one occasion to lead prayers in the US Senate. For ten years John also served as the European Catholic Chaplain for the international scouting movement.
In the last few years John served on the Police-Clergy liaison group for Merseyside as well as being the Priest Chaplain to the Port of Liverpool. Throughout his time as National Scout Chaplain John was based in the parish of St Peter and St Paul, Crosby, where he generously assisted when he was not prevented by his many other commitments.
His body will be received into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King on Thursday 5 March at 7.00 pm when a Vigil Mass will be celebrated. His Funeral Mass will be celebrated at the Metropolitan Cathedral on Friday 6 March at 11.00 am, followed by burial at St Peter and St Paul, Crosby. May he rest in peace.
Courtesy of the website of the Archdiocese of Liverpool http://www.liverpoolcatholic.org.uk/index.php?p=779