Bishop Philip Pargeter was the principal celebrant at the Requiem Mass for Geoff Jones at the Birmingham Oratory, on Wednesday, October 26, writes Peter Jennings.
Fr Paul Chavasse, provost of the Oratory founded by Blessed John Henry Newman from 1992 to 2009, preached the homily.
Geoff Jones, the stalwart who did so much to enhance the work of the Catholic Church in Birmingham over many decades, died peacefully at his home in Edgbaston, close to the Oratory Church, on October 17, aged 91. He was born in the Stechford district of Birmingham on May 7 1920.
Geoff was educated at St Philip’s Grammar School where he became head boy and met his lifelong friend Gerard Coghlan, who introduced him to Molly Hartland, his future wife, when he was 19. A number of Geoff’s contemporaries from the old St Philip’s, situated next to the Oratory church, were present, including Gerard Coghlan.
Geoff was the founder and original chairman of the Oratory parish council and he helped the Oratory Fathers in a number of ventures. He was governor to the Oratory secondary school from 1962 to 1966 and faithfully served as governor and chairman of governors to the Oratory primary school for over 50 years. In 1982, he directed operations for the papal visit at Coventry Airport.
Fr Douglas Lamb, parish priest of St Ambrose, Kidderminster, and the newly appointed chairman of the Friends of Blessed John Henry Newman, concelebrated. Fr Richard Duffield of the Oxford Oratory and a former Provost of the Birmingham community, and Brother Richard Duncan, a novice at the Birmingham Oratory, were also present on the sanctuary.
Such was the esteem in which Geoff was held that representatives of many of the organisations that he was involved in joined his wife, his children, Philip, Rosemary, Michael, Susan and Roger, and their spouses Nuala, Michael, Pauline, Chris and Kathy, his 17 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren, for the deeply prayerful, emotional and memorable Mass.
When he left school Geoff spent time at Birmingham University where he joined the Officer Training Corps and began his involvement with the Army. With the onset of war he left university to become a commissioned officer in the Royal Engineers. During the war he served in Italy and Kenya.
On February 12 1942 Geoff married Molly at St Mary’s church in Harborne. When the war ended Geoff reluctantly left the regular army and, with a young family to support, joined the National Mutual Life Assurance Society and became area manager, retiring in 1979.
Fr Paul Chavasse told the congregation that one of the last things that Geoff had said to Molly and him, one afternoon as they sat with him shortly before his death, was: “The Oratory has always been here for us.”
Fr Chavasse said: “Geoff’s life and work for the Church helped and encouraged so many people, who were inspired by his example.”