Obituary: Rt Rev James Joseph McGuinness

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Bishop Emeritus of Nottingham

James Joseph McGuinness was born 2 October 1925 in Derry, Northern Ireland. He was educated at St Columb’s, Derry and went to Seminary in St Patrick’s, Carlow and St Mary’s, Oscott. He was ordained by Bishop Ellis in the Cathedral Church of St Barnabas, Nottingham on 3 June 1950.

He was curate at St Mary’s Derby for three years before being appointed Bishop’s Secretary, also for three years, before becoming the first parish priest of the new parish of Corpus Christi, Clifton. In 1969 Fr McGuinness was appointed Vicar General with responsibility for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

On 2 February 1972 Mgr McGuinness was nominated Coadjutor Bishop with right of succession and was ordained by Bishop Ellis 23 March 1972 as Titular Bishop of St Germains and was based in Mother of God, Leicester, 1972-4.

Upon the retirement of Bishop Ellis 31 October 1974, Bishop McGuinness became the Eighth Bishop of Nottingham and set about building on the work started by Bishop Ellis. He established a Council of Priests and met with his deans regularly. The lay apostolate saw great advances, and the role of Lay Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist blossomed from 1978. Lay involvement was at the heart of the many Diocesan Commissions and other bodies which grew to help Bishop McGuinness care for his diocese. Bishop McGuinness was Chairman of the National Youth Conference in his early years at the Bishops’ Conference, and played a great part in the visit of Pope John Paul II to Great Britain in 1982.

In 1997 the Diocese gathered in the Cathedral to celebrate the silver jubilee of Bishop McGuinness’s Episcopal ordination, in the presence of Cardinals Hume, Daly and Winning, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Barbarito, and many other bishops, with members of the bishop’s family and friends from far and wide. In 1995, Bishop McGuinness had to undergo serious heart surgery and spent some months convalescing. He continued working until his seventy-fifth birthday, celebrating the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination in June 2000. In July 2000, Bishop McGuinness was granted an honorary Doctorate of Divinity by the University of Nottingham in recognition of his service to the wider community of Nottingham.

On his birthday, Bishop McGuinness offered his resignation to the Holy Father, and this was accepted shortly after with the announcement of the appointment of his successor. On 8 December 2000, Bishop McGuinness ordained Fr Malcolm McMahon OP as the Ninth Bishop of Nottingham.

As Emeritus Bishop of Nottingham, Bishop McGuinness retired to Nazareth house, Nottingham, and then just over a year later he moved to St Mary’s Nursing Home at Ednaston, where he was cared for with much love and devotion by the Sisters of Mercy.

He will be remembered as a zealous pastor who was enthusiastic for his young people, and who was on first-name terms with many people of all ages throughout his far-flung diocese.

Bishop McGuinness lived frugally and selflessly. He gave witness with his life to the self-sacrifice that the Church demands of its priests and bishops.

It was fitting, therefore, the he should go to his Lord in the afternoon of Good Friday, 6 April 2007.