Fr. Frederick Heptonstall MHM has died. R.I.P.

It is with regret that we inform you of the death on the 16th day of September, 2022 in Southport Hospital, Merseyside, aged 94 of

Father Frederick Heptonstall

Mill Hill Missionary

May he rest in peace

Fred, as we affectionately called him in Mill Hill circles, was born on the 2nd of July, 1928 in Blackburn, Lancashire, in the North of England. He was baptised in his local Catholic church on the 30th of July, 1928 supported by his parents; John Heptonstall, a grocery shopkeeper, and his mother, Monica Heptonstall, nee Fishwick. When complete, Fred had three brothers and one sister in his family.

            After receiving his Primary School education locally in Blackburn, Fred felt called to the missionary priesthood. So, off he went to the Mill Hill Missionaries’ junior seminary, Saint Peter’s College in Freshfield, Liverpool from 1940 to 1946. These must have been tough years as Britain fought the second world war. After successfully completing his Secondary education, Fred was promoted to study Philosophy and associated subjects in Roosendaal in The Netherlands, 1947 to 1949. After two short years, he progressed in his studies for priesthood to Saint Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, London, where he studied Theology and associated subjects. As his preparatory studies came to an end Fred took the Perpetual Oath to God in our missionary society on the 1st of May, 1952. Just over a year later, on the 12th of July, 1953, he was ordained a Mill Hill Priest in the Chapel of St. Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, at the hands of Cardinal Griffen of Westminster Archdiocese.

            Immediately after ordination Fred received his first missionary appointment from the hands of the Superior General, he was to work in the Diocese of Tororo in Uganda. Within the diocese of Tororo, for twenty-three years, Fred worked amongst the Iteso and Jophadola peoples with great joy and enthusiasm. Sadly, his final four years of his ministry in Uganda were overshadowed by the regime of President Idi Amin. Eventually, under the cover of darkness, Fred had to flee Uganda. He was unceremoniously deported from Mulanda Parish. News of this reached his native town of Blackburn where his story made headlines in the local newspaper, “Local missionary expelled by Idi Amin.” Fred was heart-broken to leave his people in Uganda. However, undaunted he moved to work in the Archdiocese of Kisumu in neighbouring Kenya. Here, he took up ministry amongst the Luo peoples, and quickly settled into his priestly works. On the ocassion of his Golden Jubilee, the General Council noted, “Your achievements in Ahero and Awasi Parishes are legend. Your enormous kindness to the people and your great efforts to address their different needs through various “Projects” ensure that you will be remembered for many years to come.” After a further twenty-seven years of work in Kenya, in 2002 Fred left Africa to return to his native Blackburn. Back in Blackburn, Fred was welcomed at Saint Alban’s Parish by his dear friend, Fr. Jude Harrison. There he ministered to the housebound and sick, looked after the Legion of Mary organisation and the local branch of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He was close to his brother and sister in that parish too.

            Eventually, old age catches up on everyone. So, in 2013 Fred retired to Herbert House in Freshfield where he made a valuable contribution to community life by his humility, good sense of humour, his gentleness and his kind-hearted personality. In the past week Fred was admitted to Southport Hospital with breathing difficulties. It was here that he died on the evening of the 16th of September, fortified by the Last Rites of the Church. May his good soul rest in peace. Details of Fred’s funeral will be published later.

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