Catholic Chaplaincy of Our Lady & St. Thomas More
The Catholic Chaplaincy of Our Lady & St. Thomas More for English Speaking People, Diocese of Angers
It is with great reget we need to infoirm you that Father Kevin has passed away and there are currently no masses scheduled.
ARCHBISHOP’S HOUSE, WESTMINSTER
Fr John Kevin Eastell R.I.P.
Fr John Kevin Eastell BA, STh, MEd, PhD had a love of learning. An accomplished writer of papers and articles on education, theology, ecumenism and significant people of the fifteenth century including John Fisher, Thomas More, Thomas Cranmer and John Stokesley, his legacy lives on not only by his contribution to history and scholarship but also through his ministry as an Anglican and in the Catholic Church, and as a devoted husband of Ann and father of Dominic.
Born in Yorkshire on 11 May 1942 the young Kevin was educated locally in Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire. At the age of 16 he began studies at Kelham College near Newark, Nottinghamshire as a Junior, a college founded for the education of Anglicans preparing for ministry and run by the Society of the Sacred Mission. He spent a year with the Manchester Industrial Mission, from 1960-61. Studies at Kelham continued for a further two years before Kevin went to Wells Theological College in 1963 for three years. Kevin was ordained as a priest on 24 December 1967. He was Assistant Curate at St Peter’s, horbury in Wakefield until 1969 when he went to St Bartholomew’s, Armley in Leeds where he served as Assistant Curate until 1972. Kevin and Ann were married on 31 January 1970 and their son, Dominic, was born in December of that year. Kevin was appointed Vicar of St Margaret’s, Toxteth in Liverpool where he served from 1972-76. During this time Kevin was a member of the Liverpool Diocesan Education Committee. St Peter’s in Formby, Liverpool was his next appointment where he served as Vicar from 1976-82. The Eastells then moved to Manchester where Kevin served as Vicar at St Paul’s in Royton from 1982-88. In Manchester Kevin was Secretary of Manchester Diocesan Adult Education Committee, and as Chair of West Pennine Housing Association and a member of the Manchester Diocesan Ministerial Education Committee. His journey in ministry, and south, took him to London where he served as Diocesan Director for Professional Ministry from 1988-96. From 1992-96 Kevin was a Tutor with the Open University Course EH26 Adult Education, and in 1994 he was an Examiner in the Open University Faculty of Education.
Kevin and Ann were Received and Confirmed in the Catholic Church on 1 November 1996. This took place in Angers, France at the Cathedral dedicated to St Maurice. Now living in Angers, Kevin undertook studies at the local Catholic University. As a Catholic Kevin wrote of his appreciation for the Catholic Church: ‘The hospitality of the Catholic Church has been most impressive and in faith terms it has been a wonderful experience to rediscover peace of mind and soul. That experience can never be denied and becoming Catholics has been confirmed as the right decision for both my wife and myself… I have never regarded ordination as a right to be claimed and ultimately all an individual can do is to offer one’s life for the glory of God’. Kevin’s desire was for his ministry in the Church of England to be fulfilled as a Catholic priest. Recommendations for his acceptance for ordination were made by many, including the late Fr Michael Hopley OSB of Ealing Abbey who stated that Kevin ‘is a man of integrity, is conscientious and has a great concern for others. I fully support his application for admission to the priesthood and have no hesitation in commending him’. Others commented on Kevin’s long-standing Catholic faith, his intelligence, communication skills, spirituality, pastoral care for people and his good sense of humour. Kevin was ordained as a Catholic priest on 9 November 2002 at Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More, Chelsea by Bishop James O’Brien, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster.
Fr Kevin returned to France and he continued his involvement with the Catholic University as a Professor and Director of the distinguished Moreanum Centre. In 2003 he established an English-speaking Church community in Anjou in the Diocese of Angers in western France with the blessing of Bishop Jean-Louis Bruguès. Fr Kevin wanted to provide ministry to English-speaking Catholics and he wanted others to share his appreciation for St Thomas More. He was pleased when given a visiting professorial chair at the University of Polonia in Poland to give lectures on St Thomas More and the English Renaissance and Reformation. He was instrumental in establishing a distance learning Diploma in Thomas More Studies. He was also involved with arrangements for an international Thomas More academic conference in Argentina. From January to April 2004 Fr Kevin went on a weekly visit to Paris to lecture to students from the University of Minnesota on St Thomas More and the European Renaissance. In May 2004 he travelled to Kalamazoo, near Chicago, to give a paper at a Medieval Conference on St Thomas More’s ‘Letter to Bugenhagen’ and the principles of Church unity. In July of that year he was involved with the arrangements for and delivery of a conference to celebrate Hungary joining the European Union.
For Fr Kevin the excitement was enhanced because St Thomas More set his ‘Dialogue of Comfort’ in the besieged city of Buda.
In November 2011 Fr Kevin was in London for the launch of Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ 237-page book ‘St John Fisher, Bishop and Theologian in Reformation and Controversy’. St John Fisher was executed at Tower Hill in June 1535, a few weeks before the execution of St Thomas More. Both men gave their lives for the Catholic faith, having stood up to King Henry VIII, and both were canonised in 1935. Fr Kevin assisted the Cardinal with the task of publishing the MA thesis written while a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester in the early 1970s. Fr Kevin wrote the Afterword, giving a brief survey of significant research and scholarship on the Reformation in England since the Cardinal’s thesis was written.
Fr Kevin kept himself busy with his pastoral apostolate and his academic apostolate. He shared his love of the Lord and his love for St Thomas More with energy and enthusiasm. In May 2017 he retired but continued to support the mission of the Chaplaincy based at the Church of Notre Dame de la Chapelle in Doué La Fontaine in Anjou. The patrons of the Chaplaincy, Our Lady and St Thomas More, continued to inspire and motivate Fr Kevin.
In recent months Fr Kevin’s deteriorating health required treatment and care in hospital where he celebrated his eightieth birthday on 11 May. He died peacefully in the hospital on 30 May. His funeral took place locally on 14 June 2022.
St Thomas More’s influence lives on. The impressive bronze statue by Leslie Cubitt Bevis on Cheyne Walk, around the corner from the church where Fr Kevin was ordained, describes St Thomas More as Scholar, Statesman and Saint. Fr Kevin was certainly a scholar and a man of letters and learning, and we pray that he will enjoy the fullness of life with the God whom he knew, loved and served in the company of the saints.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Mgr Martin Hayes | Vicar General | Diocese of Westminster
18 June 2022