The next few months will be an exciting time for St Joseph’s parish as we celebrate in June the landmark of Fr. Sean’s Golden Jubilee of priesthood. It will be a time of reflection and some sadness too as we say goodbye to Fr. Sean as, later in the year, he begins a well-earned retirement - fortunately we might be losing a loved Parish Priest but we will be gaining a neighbor as Fr. Sean is staying in Tadcaster. We also will be welcoming to the parish Fr. John Newman who will be taking over as PP – along with two lovely collies to share the duties!
Below is a brief bio of both Fr Sean and Fr Newman.
Fr Sean Gilligan was born in November 1940 in the townland of Curry in County Sligo in the west of Ireland. Born John Thomas, Fr Sean was the oldest of nine children – four boys and five girls – born to William and Annie Gilligan. He attended Curry National School and boarded at St Nathy’s College, Ballaghadereen in County Roscommon for his secondary education which was completed in June 1960.
A few months later Fr Sean entered the famous All Hallows College seminary in Dublin which was a Vincentian establishment that had trained upwards of 4000 priests by 1970. Fr Sean was ordained a Priest for the Leeds Diocese on June 19th 1966 and was appointed to St Clare’s parish, Bradford in August 1966 as assistant priest. This was a familiar path – in 1950 around two–thirds of the Catholic priests in Leeds were of Irish origin.
This was the beginning of fifty years hard work for the diocese which required a work ethic second to none and qualities of compassion, understanding, inspiration and wisdom that Fr Sean had in abundance – even before he was ordained. Let’s not forget either the strength of faith and devotion to service which was the bedrock of this fifty years care for the souls of the diocese.
Fr Sean was moved to St Nicholas in Leeds in 1973 and took leadership of St Gerard’s in Featherstone as PP in 1981. In 2010 Fr Sean was welcomed into St Joseph’s Tadcaster and by then he had served as PP at Christ the King, (Leeds) Our Lady and All Saints (Otley), and St Anne’s (Keighley).
In that time Fr Sean has served under four Bishops and was made Canon to the Chapter in 2004. He has undertaken a huge range of responsibilities across the diocese including being a Foundation Governor at all the schools in the several parishes, Chaplain to the Legion of Mary and Wealstun Prison as well as having responsibility for running a house of flats for girls who were leaving the care system.
Reflecting on fifty years of deciated and successful priesthood, Fr Sean says, "Today is a gift from God which holds out immense opportunities for us. It is the first day of the rest of our lives, whatever yesterday was like, today is wholly new and the future lies ahead" (David Hope).That is how I feel having fought the good fight and kept the faith. Thank you to all who I have come across and enriched my life in my 50 years as a priest”
There can be little doubt that Fr Sean’s retirement is indeed very well-earned! There will be two celebrations:
June 19th – Sunday Mass with the St Joseph’s parish family
June 22nd – Mass for friends from previous parishes, fellow priests, town dignitaries.
It is also worth saying that a number of Fr Sean’s family will be over from Ireland to join in the celebrations giving all parishioners a chance to meet them and say a big thanks for the service of Fr Sean.
Fr John Newman will be taking up the position as Parish Priest in September. He is a Grimsby lad by birth and upbringing so we will be welcoming a Lincolnshire missionary to Yorkshire! The Bishop of Leeds, William Gordon Wheeler, received Fr John into the Catholic Church in his late teens at Woodhall Carmel. After studies and formation at Ushaw College, Durham Fr John was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Leeds on 11th July, 1981 at the tender age of 26 years. (Bishop Wheeler was granted permission to ordain Fr John at home in St Mary's Church, Grimsby which is in the Diocese of Nottingham.) Fr John says, “I've therefore spent the whole of my adult life, from formation in seminary and 35 years as a priest, in the service of the Lord and his people in the Diocese of Leeds.”
After service as a deacon in St Cuthbert's, Bradford, Fr John’s priestly ministry began at Christ the King, Bramley, Leeds and then St Mary's parish, Batley . He concluded his time as a curate at St Theresa's, Crossgates, Leeds. Fr John had two 13-year assignments as a parish priest at St Bernard's, Halifax and at St Joseph's, Bradford, respectively. He hopes the pattern continues and that we can can expect at least 13 years at Tadcaster !
Fr John will not be living alone in the presbytery – he has two young sibling border collies, Dom and Isla. They are looking forward to walks along the banks of the river Wharfe with their owner and surreptitious treats from parishioners without their owner knowing!
A very warm welcome to St Joseph's for Fr John - the whole parish looks forward to getting to know you (and Dom and Isla!).