Fr Denis Patrick Watters died peacefully at the care home in Oxford, where he had been living, on Saturday 1st June.
Born in March 1947 and Ordained in May 1972, Fr Denis was a Priest of the Diocese of Westminster for 47 years.
Condolences are extended to Fr Denis’ sister Kate and to other family members and friends.
Fr Denis’ Funeral Mass will take place on Monday 17 June at 12noon at the church of St Gregory the Great, 447 Victoria Road, South Ruislip HA4 0EG. Burial will follow at Carpenders Park Cemetery, Pinner.
May the soul of Fr Denis rest in peace, and may he rise in glory.
Fr Denis Patrick Watters R.I.P.
‘Non nobis Domine sed nomine tuo da gloriam’, Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory – this was Fr Denis’ motto that featured on his personal stationery in correspondence from his home in Ballyheigue, Co Kerry in Ireland. Taken from Psalm 113 in the Vulgate numbering of the Psalms, it was also the motto of the Knights Templar, the Order that cared for pilgrims travelling to sites in the Holy Land and seeking to journey closer to God. As a priest, Fr Denis cared for the parishioners he served, and they cared for him. He knew himself to be a fellow pilgrim, called to follow and called to serve, putting at the service of God and the Church his faith, his vocation and his humility.
Denis Patrick Watters was born in London on 29 March 1947, the son of Thomas and Josephine. He is survived by his younger sister Kate. Denis was baptised at St Joseph’s, Wembley and educated at the parish primary school and St Gregory’s High School, Kenton and at Breakspear College in Abbots Langley. Denis was good at sports, especially football. He played for his school teams, and for the Wembley Borough team, and had trials for West Ham United FC. He could have pursued a career as a footballer, but his sense of vocation led him to apply to the Diocese and he was accepted and went to Allen Hall Seminary at St Edmund’s College, Ware, Hertfordshire as a seminarian where began studies in 1966. He was Ordained to the Diaconate at St Edmund’s College on 4 July 1971 and to the priesthood at St Joseph’s church, Wembley by Cardinal Heenan on 27 May 1972.
Fr Denis’ first appointment as an Assistant Priest was to the parish of Ss Mary and Joseph, Poplar, from 1972 until 1978, the parish where he served the previous year as a Deacon. While at Poplar Fr Denis played football for a local team in a Sunday morning league. With Fr Denis’ skill, the team won the league and the local newspaper carried a photograph of the victorious team with the cup and including Fr Denis in team kit – the accompanying article mentioned that Fr Denis also fulfilled his priestly duties on Sundays! He was then appointed Assistant Priest at All Saints, Kenton and Chaplain at St Gregory’s School until 1984. His next appointment was as Parish Priest to St Joseph’s, Bunhill Row, serving as Chaplain to Moorfields Eye Hospital, where he remained until 1990 when he was appointed Parish Priest at St Gabriel’s, Archway. In 1997 Fr Denis had sabbatical leave, including participation on a course at Palazzola, the Villa of the English College outside Rome. He was then appointed Parish Priest at Stevenage, living at St Joseph’s, Bedwell from 1998 until his premature retirement from full time parish ministry for reasons of poor health in June 2011.
Before being appointed to Stevenage, Fr Denis was asked if he would accept appointment as Vocations Director for the Diocese, but he told Cardinal Hume that, after much prayer and thought, it would not be right for him to accept because of his introverted personality. He was grateful to Cardinal Hume for considering him for such a role, and for the Cardinal’s confidence in his ability. Fr Denis requested a return to parish ministry ‘outside the capital’. This he was granted.
Writing to the Diocese, from his home in Ballyheigue in February 2012 Fr Denis commented on how much he missed active parish life as a priest, ‘But I count myself fortunate in having a kind and considerate Parish Priest who tries to involve me in the activities that go on here’, he wrote. Throughout his life Fr Denis had a keen interest in all sports, including golf, fishing and basketball. In Co Kerry he had more time for golf, living near the renowned Ballybunion course. Deteriorating health and the need for care necessitated Fr Denis’ return to England. In May 2016 he went to live at his sister’s residential care home at Burnham Lodge, Slough where he enjoyed walking in the spacious grounds, and subsequently to Oaken Holt Nursing and Residential Home, Farmoor near Oxford where he died peacefully on Saturday 1 June.
Family members, friends and parishioners of Fr Denis will have many stories to share as they recall the life of a faithful and well-loved priest. A humble man, he was dedicated to his ministry and faithful to his friends. A parishioner of Bunhill Row recalls Fr Denis taking them down to the dark and unlit crypt of the church, populated with life size statutes of saints and martyrs, with graphic descriptions of how they died. Fr Denis explained that on his arrival the small church was full of them, ‘leaving little room for the living’. Fr Denis brought new life to the community.
Fr Denis was an intelligent and insightful man, always respectful of the views of other people and able to analyse situations and face challenges, and winning the respect and loyalty of parishioners. His abiding kindness and deep compassion for people who were troubled or suffering brought comfort to many. His self-effacing and dry sense of humour was never cynical or sarcastic, but able to bring a ray of light to a dark situation. He often told a humorous story at the end of each of his Masses, causing people to leave the church with a smile on their lips, as did the humorous photos and jokes that were characteristic of Fr Denis’ parish newsletters.
May this faithful and humble Priest receive the reward of his labours, and may he rest in peace.
Mgr Martin Hayes | Vicar General | Diocese of Westminster
11 June 2019