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Fr Frederick George Jackson RIP

We announce the sad news of the death this afternoon, 17th July, of Fr Frederick George Jackson. Fr Fred died peacefully at home in the Kensington Care Home, Ladbroke Road where he had been living for just a few days, having moved from Nazareth House in Finchley.

Fr Fred was born in Liverpool on 27th September 1943 and ordained to the priesthood in Westminster Cathedral on 28th June 1997 by Cardinal Basil Hume.

Sympathy is extended to Fr Fred’s family and friends, and to the clergy and parishioners of his former Anglican and Catholic parishes.

We pray for the repose of Fr Fred’s soul:
Lord Jesus, our Redeemer,
you willingly gave yourself up to death so that all people might be saved and pass from death into a new life.
Listen to our prayers, look with love on your people who mourn and pray for Fr Fred.
Lord Jesus, holy and compassionate, forgive his sins.
By dying you opened the gates of life for those who believe in you.
Do not let our brother be parted from you, but by your glorious power give him light, joy and peace in heaven
where you live for ever and ever.

May the soul of this faithful priest rest in peace. Amen.

Obituary

‘Continue to love each other like brothers, and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this some people have entertained angels without knowing it’ (Hebrews 13:1-2). ‘If any of the saints are in need you must share with them, and you must make hospitality your special care’ (Romans12:13). These two New Testament passages are applicable epitaphs to Fr Fred. He was always hospitable, and always willing and ready to prepare a meal, whether a restaurant-quality dinner to celebrate a special occasion with family, friends or colleagues or carefully made sandwiches for a caller at the presbytery door at whatever time of the day. Fr Fred’s engagement with people, whether the great and the good or the dispossessed and rejected, was characteristically gracious and kind, leaving people feeling accepted, valued and affirmed. He made everyone feel special. He loved humanity and in his loving his humanity was manifest. This made him an effective priest, a trusted friend and a valued relative.

Frederick George Jackson was born in Liverpool on 27th September 1943 to Edith and George Jackson. His brother, Peter, was born three years later. In 1950 their father died, but the family’s faith, as committed Anglicans, was a source of strength. Sunday school and belonging to the church choir had a lasting influence on Fred. He was educated locally in Aintree and left school at the age of 16 and was employed in a local accounts office for four years before taking up a year’s residential course for A level studies run by the Mirfield Fathers in Leeds. From 1967 to 1970 he studied for a BA degree in English and Theology at Leeds University. He then went to Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxford from 1970 to 1972. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1972 and to the priesthood in 1973 in Gloucester Cathedral. He continued ministry in Cirencester before being appointed to St Augustine’s, Kilburn as Junior Curate from 1974 to 1977 then to St Mary’s, Bourne Street in Chelsea as Senior Curate until 1981. He was then appointed Chaplain to the Bishop of Chichester for five years until 1986 and enjoyed this role and living in the prestigious address ‘The Palace, Chichester PO19 1PY’. He then served at St Michael’s, Brighton for nine years as Vicar but became disillusioned with certain aspects of the Church of England’s direction and resigned his ministry to take time for personal and vocational discernment. It was a very difficult and disturbing time for Fred, perhaps contributing to the onset of various health issues. In 1995 he took the decision to join the Catholic Church. Writing to the Diocese of Westminster in June 1995 he said ‘I have no gifts. The Sacraments are my life and the Mass is everything to me.’ His modesty and humility were to become invaluable gifts in his ministry as a Catholic priest. He was warmly welcomed into the Church, as were several other former Anglican clergy who have enriched the life of the Diocese of Westminster. In April 1996 the Bishop of Chichester wrote to the Diocese of Westminster, ‘I shall be very sorry to lose him but you will gain a very fine priest.’ How right he was.    

In August 1996 Fred was received into the Catholic Church and confirmed. The following month he went to live in the presbytery at Our Lady of Willesden parish, serving as Pastoral Assistant with three other priests. It was not an easy time for Fred, partly due to the failing health of his mother, necessitating frequent visits to her in Kendal. In the parish the large number of people attending Mass and the demands made on the clergy added to Fred’s appreciation of ministry in the Catholic Church. He was not put off! He was ordained to the priesthood on 28th June 1997 in Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Basil Hume.  

In 1997 Fr Fred was appointed to Kentish Town as Assistant Priest but he was unable to remain, as he wrote in the parish newsletter at the end of September, ‘The stress and emotional upheaval of these past years has finally caught up with me and being susceptible to depression…I must have a period of rest and inactivity.’ In 1999 Fr Fred was appointed Assistant Priest at Holy Redeemer, Chelsea where he remained for two years before going to Our Lady of Victories, Kensington as Assistant Priest.

Fr Fred’s homilies were direct and pointed, meticulously prepared and never longer than five minutes. At Mass he conveyed a contemplative presence. He was sought after as a confessor, including by students for the priesthood. He was attentive to those struggling with the pain of loss and bereavement. He knew himself to be a minister of God’s love and mercy, and he knew that one can only try to give of one’s best, leaving the rest to God.

Great charm and personal warmth were qualities much admired and appreciated by parishioners and others who knew Fr Fred, as were his gentleness, soft voice and understated mannerisms. Yet he could also be firm and decisive, while always being respectful of those who encountered these characteristics. He had an endearing shyness and humility. He could provide what was necessary for a party: food, drink, table decoration, polished cutlery, good stories and good humour, and he would often melt away as the occasion took off with people suddenly realizing Fr Fred had left without any fuss. His pastimes, along with shopping and cooking, included tending to the garden, listening to classical music, reading, writing poetry and visiting his family. He preferred to communicate by hand-written letter using pen and ink and beautiful notepaper rather than the computer and email. He knew the importance of ‘down time’ and the need for leisure and relaxation alone or with others. Fr Freddie – Uncle Fred – loved his nephew and two nieces and they loved him. To them he was ‘a legend, an inspiration…the kindest, most generous person’. He always knew the right words to say in both difficult and joyful times. He will be missed by family, friends, colleagues, parishioners and callers to the door of Clergy House.

When 75 years of age, in September 2018, Fr Fred offered his resignation as Assistant Priest at Our Lady of Victories where he had served since 2001. Permission was given for him to stay on as he had requested. Supported by the other priests in the presbytery, Fr Fred continued to contribute to the life of the house but not as much as before to the life of the parish. The effects of Parkinson’s disease – Fr Fred had lived with this for many years – were becoming more pronounced. This, combined with some other health issues, caused increased concern. On 4th October 2019 Fr Fred again wrote to Cardinal Vincent to let him know of his decision to step down as Assistant Priest. It was agreed that Fr Fred would retire on 1st November and remain in residence and giving limited assistance. The Cardinal’s response to Fr Fred gave him the opportunity to thank him for his ministry in the parish ‘…and indeed for your gracious and compassionate manner’. The Parish Priest gave the news to parishioners: ‘The good news is that Fr Freddie will continue to live in the Clergy House as priest in residence. So many of us have cause to be grateful to Fr Freddie for his pastoral care, wisdom and guidance. He will continue to minister in the parish as befitting these new circumstances and will now have a little more flexibility to manage his own timetable.’ However, by January 2020 it was confirmed that Fr Fred had a malignant tumour. Despite the best of treatment and care Fr Fred’s health deteriorated, necessitating going to live at Nazareth House in Finchley in April and then, in June, at the Kensington Care Home in a familiar neighbourhood and more accessible for visits. In his new home Fr Fred was comfortable and secure. He was especially grateful for the smoked salmon served for breakfast! He died peacefully, his brother Peter at his bedside, on 17th July 2020 having received the Sacrament of the Sick the previous day. A beautiful death for a lovely man and priest who, please God, will enjoy the heavenly banquet in its fullness. Fr Fred often said at Funeral Masses, ‘When the time comes Jesus takes us by the hand and leads us into the presence of the Father. Along the way we will pass many familiar faces who are waiting to welcome us home.’

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.