Born Johnstone Renfrewshire
1928 – 1933 St Mary’s College Blairs
1933 – 1939 Scots College Rome: Gregorian University
1939 23 December ordained priest for Glasgow by Luigi Traglia in the Lateran Basilica
1940 – 1941 Motherwell: Our Lady of Good Aid
1941 – 1947 Kilbirnie:St Brigid’s
1947 – 1960 Glasgow: St Peter’s Partick
1960 – 1986 Glasgow: Sacred Heart Cumbernauld
1987 Retired to Paisley
2003 Glasgow died: 28 November aged 88
Rev. Francis Jaconelli – 28th November, 2003
CD 2005 p 478Father Francis Jaconelli is, somewhat erroneously, regarded as the first Parish Priest in the New Town of Cumbernauld. Actually that position belonged to Father Thomas Reilly who served in the Town from 1958 untill 1960 when Father Francis Jaconelli was appointed to Sacred Heart Parish as its second Parish Priest. He was to remain there for over 26 years, in this, the first parish to be established in the town. It is a measure of Father Jaconelli’s effect on the New Town that Father Reilly is often forgotten. During his time as Parish Priest, Father Jaconelli watched the town grow from barely two thousand people to over sixty thousand people. The small parish of Sacred Heart in 1960 became a huge parish resulting in the creation of Saint Joseph’s in 1968 and Saint Lucy’s in 1973, while in 1974 Our Lady and St. Helen’s took some territory from Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph’s and Holy Cross, Croy. Father Jaconelli was a priest who looked after every aspect of the parish life, both spiritual and secular. He was at home in the corridors of power watching out for the community and ensuring its growth. As a New Town the local authority was split between Dumbarton County Council and The Development Corporation which was responsible for housing and the growth of the Town. Father Jaconelli watched the arriving townsfolk and decided that Catholics were under-represented. An investigation discovered that a senior official was not approving Catholic families and hence the imbalance. The horrified Corporation took immediate action and dealt with the situation after Father Jaconelli pointed out the problem.
The rapid growth of the town, with families moving out of Glasgow, made big demands on the priest’s time, especially when it came to blessing new homes. Every house in the parish was a new house, every person moving in was moving into a brand new home and there were weeks in which he would be asked to bless seventy or eighty houses. This resulted in his somewhat novel methodology for blessing houses, a methodology that was to bring him both notoriety and admiration in almost equal measures: when people asked him if he would come and bless their house, he would ask in return: “Where is your house?” When they started rhyming off the address, he would interrupt: “No. What direction is your house from here?” When told, he simply turned in that direction and made the sign of the Cross!
“That’s it blessed!” You either loved Fr Jaconelli or you moved to another parish! His actions aroused hilarity and horror in equal measure, sometimes at the same time! He was, though, a man of action, prepared to get his hands dirty, and didn’t have much time for standing on ceremony. Born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, on 14 September 1915, into the Paisley branch of the Italo-Scots Jaconelli clan, he entered, Blairs College, Aberdeen, in 1928, and the Scots College, Rome, in 1933.
He was ordained priest by Archbishop Traglia in the Basilica of St .lohn Lateran on 23 December 1939, one of the last Scots ordained in Rome for almost a decade due to the Second World War. (The same Archbishop Traglia would, in the same Basilica, after the War, ordain Thomas Joseph Winning to the priesthood). Newly ordained, he returned to Scotland in 1939 and served briefly in Motherwell as Assistant in the Parish of Our Lady of Good Aid (later to become the Cathedral for Motherwell Diocese) until 1940 when he was appointed to Saint Brigid’s, Kilbirnie (now part of Galloway diocese) where he remained until 1947.
With plans in place to create the new Dioceses of Motherwell and Paisley from parts of the Archdiocese of Glasgow, and the transfer of some territory to Galloway Diocese, Archbishop Campbell was keen to ensure that he had his share of able priests at his disposal. Fr. Jaconelli was moved from Kilbirnie to St Peter’s, Partick, safe within the bosom of the Archdiocese. He was to remain in Partick for 13 years until he moved to Cumbernauld. Along with Cumbernauld, it is in Partick he is best remembered.
He endeared himself to families and parishioners by being prepared to get his hands dirty for and with them. If he felt there was something practical he could do to help people he would do it. His gruff exterior belied his generous heart and willingness to give of himself. One family in Partick had him regularly arrive early on a Saturday morning to set up and light the coal fire so the teenage daughter could have a lie in on that day. Her mother’s heart condition made the light fire the daughter’s responsibility – a task undertaken on a Saturdays by Father Jaconelli out of service for others. Many of these kindnesses went unrecorded; he was not a man to blow his own trumpet. Only by listening to others commenting on what he had done for them could you get an idea of the vast array of different kindnesses he showed in a day.
Yet that gruff exterior could easily put people off, like hanging out of the house window shouting “What do you want?” was his typical response to a doorbell. He could drop a Mass Card from the window in your hands with the precision needed to make sure it never hit the ground. ”Just stick the name through the door,” he’d shout as he closed the window. Yet in spite of the gruff responses and the frequent barking responses, he would be distressed if he thought that he had upset you. He was particularly interested in the welfare of the priests who served with him – though sometimes that could be misunderstood since he inevitably barked at them too on occasion – though always in his mind and in his heart “for their own good.” His efforts in helping establish the Charity Ball allowed a wider audience to appreciate his true nature.
He was the one who encouraged Archbishop Winning to “start the ball rolling” in 1977, convincing him that there were enough people willing to support the venture and raise money for worthy causes in and around the diocese. The first Charity Ball took place on 22 December 1977, raising £10,000 for the Scottish National Association of Spina Bifida.
The formula of a meal, auction and cabaret, coupled with sponsorship, worked a treat and has remained the staple to this day, with the Cardinal Winning Charity Ball still a major feature in the social calendar and still raising money for good causes. Fr Jaconelli’s part in that legacy was not insignificant, for the quality of his own work and the quality of the people he brought on board to work alongside him and indeed to take over from him. He later revealed that the inspiration for his effort was an encounter with the Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli at a charity concert in Rome, in his student days. During the interval, he engaged the singer in conversation, and the Pavarotti of his day impressed the young seminarian with his
commitment to performing to his peak at the charity event and the evident satisfaction he derived from being able to use his musical talent for the benefit of others. “Thank God, I have seen this attitude repeated by many talented people very often”, Fr. Jaconelli stated.
Cardinal Winning tried to entice Father Jaconelli from his retirement to attend the 21st “Charity Ball” as his special guest, but the quiet side of Father Jaconelli which was less often seen in public, ensured that he gratefully declined the invitation.
As Parish Priest of Sacred Heart, he oversaw the building of the new parish church – one of Jack Coia’s most ambitious and successful modern building designs. Stark and simple on the outside, its dramatic use of light and stained glass has a phenomenal effect inside. It was opened in 1964. He was never behind the times either – he was the proud owner of a parish computer as early as 1973. The printer alone took up a room and produced letters that were three feet in width, and which he took delight in dispatching to friend and foe alike. In spite of all the progress in computers, this wide printer was still in service when he retired and beyond. All his Mass obligations were dutifully recorded there in a great spreadsheet as were all the other pieces of information he wanted to keep and to maintain. He was as up to date on computer technology in his mid-eighties as he had been from the very beginning of the home computer market. He attended to the garden in the parish house – a hobby he loved and excelled at, and which allowed him to meet the folk passing by the church, including the school kids who were only too happy to shout hello. His being around there, especially as the school came out in the afternoon, meant that he had the chance to speak with the children and with parents who came to collect their children. He was always up to date with what was going on therefore and with the events that were taking place in the lives of people in the parish. Other pastimes included horse racing and the football pools, and the pink edition of the Evening Times always went with him to the confessional on Saturday night. His skills with a pack of cards were legendary and his ability to watch two different programmes on two different televisions simultaneously, unequalled.
Fr. Jaconelli retired from parish ministry in 1987 and set up home in Paisley beside his sister’s house in a street replete with family and friends. As his health failed, he was moved into nursing care and he died peacefully on 28 November 2003, in the 64th year of his priesthood. He had been very clear as to what was to happen when he died: the Funeral Mass was to be celebrated in St. Margaret’s, Johnstone, the church of his baptism, the parish of his family. Archbishop Conti could not preside at the funeral and Monsignor Peter Smith, the Diocesan Chancellor, was deputised to represent the Archbishop and so the teenager whose application for seminary was prepared and submitted by Father Jaconelli, and whose mother, when a teenager herself, had gained a long lie on a Saturday as Father Jaconelli lit the fire, now presided at his funeral. Father Jaconelli would have had something to say about that!
May he rest in peace. Contributed
Monsignor Patrick Canon Osborne.
Born to John & Ellen Osborne 11/5/34.
Brothers John & Thomas, sisters Mary, Alice & Bridget.
Attended Aglish Primary School and Christian Brothers College in Lismore.
Ecclesiastical education Saint John’s Seminary in Waterford ordained priest Sunday 14th June 1959 for the Archdiocese of Glasgow.
Assistant priest : Saint Josephs North Woodside Road Cowcaddens.
Saint Thomas the Apostle Riddrie.
Corpus Christi Scotstounhill, and chaplain to Saint Pius X Secondary Drumchapel.
Spiritual Director Saint Peters College Cardross and later Newlands.
Assistant Priest: Our Lady & Saint Georges Penilee and Director of Ministry to Priests programme.
Administrator of Holy Cross Parish Croy and Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Cumbernauld Feb 1987-Oct 2013.
Diocesan Fabric and Planning Board 1989.
Appointed Domestic Prelate by His Holiness Pope John Paul II 2000, Dean and Canon of Saint Andrews Cathedral Chapter.
Retired to Saint Paul's Presbytery 1213 Dumbarton Road Whiteinch.
These facts are only a sketch of the man and priest Patrick Osborne. Mgr Pat was firmly rooted in his family. His holidays were almost always about going home, but going home to work on the farm. Had God not called him to sow his Word in the field of this Archdiocese Mgr would almost certainly have worked all his life on the farm. His physical strength was always put to good use in the parishes in which he resided as he could turn his hand to anything, DIY and repair work, along with a sound instinct and wisdom that enabled him to work with Historic Scotland and other agencies to ensure the replacement of the Roofs of Sacred Heart and the insulation of the building as well as new heating and extensive renovations of the hall and Sanctuary. Sport features high on Mgr interest list, golf and his beloved Celtic as well as the Gaelic football, especially when his nephews are playing. These pursuits as well as his visiting of our parish, especially the sick, have kept him fit and active well beyond his years. Mgr never spared himself, in his service of the people of the parishes in which he served. He was very firmly a man who worked for the unity of the Christian churches particularly here in Cumbernauld, he was, “a priests man” in the sense that he valued the company of other priests, is a great visitor to those who were sick and ailing and was a great supporter of any initiatives to develop the priestly ministry and priestly identity. Beneath all his activity on behalf of the people of God was a great and loving relationship with God himself. A relationship that he willing shared with students for the priesthood, in Saint Peters College Glasgow during his time as Spiritual Director there. As the people of Sacred Heart Parish Family were will be forever in Mgr s debt as he gave so much of himself in building our parish family and living among us shaping us as church and walking with us in the presence of God. May God now uphold him in his well deserved retirement as in supply work he can share his enthusiasm, spirituality and priesthood with many more people.