The sudden and unexpected passing last Thursday, of the Very Reverend Canon Aidan G. Jones of Clonattin, Gorey, and late of Bannview, Kilanerin, has shocked and stunned his family, friends, fellow clergy, and former parishioners. He was 76 years of age.
He was on an ecumenical tour in Greece when he was found dead in his hotel room after failing to turn up for breakfast.
A spokesperson for the Diocese said that the news of his passing was met with genuine disbelief. 'He passed away on an ecumenical pilgrimage, work with which he was synonymous,' he said. 'It's a very difficult time for his family, as well as people he served with over the years, and all who knew him in the Diocese.'
Born on March 15, 1940, he was ordained in Maynooth on June 21, 1964. He was appointed to Bunclody in 1964, where he served as curate until 1966.
From 1966 to 1968, he undertook a course in youth work policy and youth service administration in the University of Leicester. He returned to Bunclody from 1969 to 1972, and then went to the University of Illinois to study social work and family orientated issues.
He was appointed to Castledockrell from 1973 to 1980. He moved as curate to Riverchapel in 1980, and became its parish priest in on November 23, 1991, when Courtown Riverchapel separated from Ballygarrett to become its own parish.
He was appointed director for Ecumenism in February 1988, and Diocesan Youth Officer. He was appointed parish priest of Bunclody in September 1995, and he remained there until he retired from active ministry in February 2012.
Bunclody councillor Barbara-Anne Murphy said that Canon Jones was greatly loved in the area. 'Everyone is absolutely shocked,' she said. 'We thought we were going to have him around for longer than we had him.'
Parish priest Fr Laurence O'Connor particularly remembered him at weekend Masses in the town. 'People just wanted to take the opportunity to talk about him and remember him,' said Barbara-Anne. She said that when he first came to Bunclody as a curate, he started a youth club and was wonderfully popular with young people. When he moved on from Bunclody, he helped found the Ferns Diocesan Youth Service (FDYS).
'When he came back, he got such a warm welcome,' she said. 'People who liked him, really loved him, and people who were unsure of him, grew to love him.'
She said that he was very straight-forward, and liked to get things done. 'He had a huge interest in everything that went on in the town,' she said. 'He was really involved in the Tidy Towns, and was instrumental in setting up Bunclody Community Council, which was set up as an anti-crime initiative.' It brought CCTV to the town.
His strong passion for ecumenism was evident in the high number of inter-church events in the town. He struck up a friendship with Rev Nigel Waugh which continued to this day, and they both organised the annual ecumenical tour which he was on at the time of his passing.
The parish held a huge reception for him when he retired, though Barbara-Anne recalled that he said he didn't think he deserved it. 'We wanted to be sure he was recognised for all that he did,' she said.
Kieran Dohonoe of FDYS said that thousands of young people and hundreds of families have benefited from the vision he and the founders had for FDYS. 'We are saddened to hear of his loss,' he said, 'especially in light of the passing of another founder member, Fr Walter Forde, last year.'
In retirement, he maintained his close links with Bunclody; with ecumenism; and he was also the Diocesan chairman of the History and Archives Commission which holds thousands of important collections of papers and artefacts.
Eldest son of the late Patrick and Sarah, beloved brother of Ted and Annette and the late Paddy, Canon Jones is deeply regretted and sadly missed by his brother, sister, brother-in-law Ned, sisters-in-law Peggy and Marcella, nephews, nieces, grand-nephews, grand-nieces, Denis Bishop of Ferns, his brother Priests, extended family, relatives and a large circle of friends. His funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.