Remembering Fr Jude Botelho by Gavin Barrett
Fr Jude Botelho, as a man and priest, gave his entire life over to active testimony of God’s love. I first met Fr Jude in May 1984. I had signed up for the Faith Formation Course, one of two programmes that Jude ran as administrator of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, in partnership with Fr Michael Paes and Ashley Tellis. The other was the Abba Experience.
While Ashley drove large volumes of Aquinas and Rahner into our brains, Fr Jude poured an awareness of the unconditional love of the Father into our hearts. For a bunch of questioning, searching young Catholics, the masses we heard during those programmes and for years after, were nothing short of life-changing. We sat on on the floor of the little DPC chapel in a circle, sharing our own experiences and reflections on the liturgy of the Word in an extension of the homily. We offered up our anxieties and struggles at the offertory, we hugged at the kiss of peace. To hear Fr Jude say Mass was to unlock the message of love that is at the heart of the Mass.
We stayed friends forever. I saw Jude as a man and friend and he was one of the few priests I only ever called by his first name — something he took as a compliment of the deepest kind. He concelebrated my wedding Mass — something I took as a compliment of the deepest kind, as it was on the very same day as Ashley Tellis’ wedding. Through his priesthood, Jude lit a flame in the hearts of 1000s of Catholics and inspired them to act through love first and always. Jude’s homilies reflected his enormous emotional intelligence and his massive but understated intellectual capacity. They combined the message of the readings, with a deep understanding of the people around him, a combination that made every homily real, and meaningful.
Jude stayed close to those he had started on their faith journeys, and shortly after I moved to Canada, I was delighted to hear that he would be visiting. His visits to Canada were always too short and yet they had a profound impact. The flock from the Abba Experiences and FFCs would gather, Jude would say Mass and we would share a meal. As he listened to many speak of their immigrant struggles, he exhorted us all to bind together and to find ways to support each other, and this gave rise to an informal network called YesICan.
Between his PhD studies at the University of Westminster, his fundraising as the director of NISCORT and member of SIGNIS, Jude went on to make several more trips to Canada. We were blessed to have him in our home, where as fellow communicators and technophiles, we exchanged notes on the latest digital developments. We worked on many tiny projects and went shopping for equipment together. We actively discussed the future of the Church and how we would reshape it in our own image, laughing at our vanity all the while.
On his last visit in 2017, Jude made me promise I would help him update his online database of homilies which lives on http://NetforLife.net, once his work restoring Gloria Church was complete. That update did not begin but it is a promise I still hope to keep. Unsurprisingly, when I went online to look for details about his funeral, I found this link – his homily for last Sunday’s readings about the Good Samaritan. It is only fitting that the great gift that Jude was to us continues to live on in words that reflect his humanity, love and intelligence, and his ministry of forgiveness and mercy. I give thanks for his presence in my life and praise the Father for him.