Fr. John Dunne, Parish Priest of Ryde 1989-95, R.I.P.

The death has occurred of Fr. John Dunne. Father died at Kiln Green Convent, near Reading, where he had been staying since his retirement last year as parish priest of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church, Southbourne.

Fr. Dunne came to St. Mary’s, Ryde in April 1989 with an instruction “to restore the church” after it had endured several poorly executed re-ordering projects in the wake of Vatican II. Within five years he had restored the interior of the church to its original Victorian beauty (in so far as the liturgical changes of Vatican II would permit). The Lady Chapel had been re-painted and the Countess of Clare’s Chapel was restored as a place of prayer and devotion.

The parish hall consisted of several classrooms and was unsuitable as a parish centre. Fr. Dunne had the interior walls demolished to make one large hall. All this work was not in place of the spiritual development of the parish. He made it clear that parishioners’ spiritual nourishment was his first priority, and to this end, he arranged a Mission soon after his arrival. It was only a few days ago that the parish received a letter from Fr. Dunne accepting an invitation to the Requiem Mass to mark the centenary of the death of Bishop Cahill (a former parish priest of Ryde). Fr. Dunne loved his priesthood. He was a kind, humble and gentle man. He always had time for people. No one ever spoke unkindly about him. He had great respect from his parishioners and was held in high esteem by everyone.

He was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on 7th June 1969 and he came to Ryde from Hedge End Parish in 1989. After six and a half years here this parish, he spent fourteen years in Southbourne. He was also the Chaplain and Spiritual Director of the Diocesan Catholic Women’s League; a post that was very dear to his heart. It was only last year that St. Mary’s welcomed him back, at the invitation of Fr. Glaysher, for a Mass to celebrate his 40th anniversary as a priest.

A Requiem Mass was offered in St. Mary’s on 1st September 2010 by Fr. Glaysher and Fr. Nicholas OSB from Quarr Abbey. Fr. Glaysher reminded the congregation of the important work of restoration which Fr. Dunne undertook whilst parish priest. “Whilst I have tweaked here and there with a few things over the past two years, it was Fr. Dunne who laid the foundation of what we have here in St. Mary’s today, and for that we must all be grateful” In his sermon Fr. Nicholas spoke of his admiration for Fr. Dunne; “he restored and beautified this church not as a museum or some sort of memorial, but so that it was a fitting place in which to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Fr. Dunne was first and foremost, a priest, and it was the care of souls that was his priority”.

The IoW County Press (20th August) carried an article on Fr. Dunne outlining his achievements as a priest here in Ryde. May his soul rest in peace. Requiescat in pace.