Parishioners pay tribute to priest of the people
- Credit: Archant
More than 1,000 people filled the streets of Forest Gate for the final mass of Father Denis Hall at St Antony of Padua.
Father Hall, who served as a priest for 48 years, was based at Our Lady of Compassion in Upton Park when he died on March 25 after a massive heart attack at home.
His cousin, Janette Hopkins, described the funeral’s turnout as “incredible” and said it reflected the joy he and others took from his work in the community.
“He was a much-loved priest, very happy and caring,” she said. “We will miss him – we will remember him with love and a smile.”
She said that, despite his Roman Catholic background, he was the first priest in his family.
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“He was born to be a priest,” she said. “I don’t ever remember him not wanting to be one.
“He had an absolutely undying faith and he was always interested in parish life.”
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She told the Recorder that one of Father Hall’s favourite aspects of serving his parish was the work he did with schools such as St Angela’s Ursuline School in Forest Gate.
Mark Johnson, headteacher at St Angela’s, said that the funeral was testament to Father Hall’s contribution to Newham.
“As the school broke up for the Easter holidays this year, we did so with a great sense of loss – particularly on our final day liturgy when Father Denis would have given us all his blessing,” he said. “He was always reminding us of our role in the community and our journey through life together.
“His funeral was a testament to the immense role he played in Newham, with over 1,000 people attending, from his fellow clergy, headteachers, past students, Ursuline sisters and parishioners from every generation.
“It was clear that Father Denis had a profound impact in a multicultural and multi-faith community that he loved so much he dedicated his life to it.”
Father Samuel Ussher Homiah, who worked closely as Father Hall’s assistant, has taken over leadership at Our Lady of Compassion.
He said he would remember Father Hall’s hospitality.
“He was a man for the people,” he said. “Whoever knocked at his door, he would welcome.”