Br John Hegarty
For many years Br John was a familiar figure around Ealing, always ready to talk to anyone, always interested in helping out anyone in genuine need. A man who was always the same with everyone. John was a much loved member of Ealing Abbey Parish. He served weekday evening Mass for many years and also many funerals.
John Lemont Hegarty was born on 26th May 1937 in Paddington and placed in institutional care . He was brought from a baby’s home in Putney in 1938 to be cared for in the Southampton orphanage run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
One of the community Sr Anne Teresa remembered noticing John when she first arrived there because he was taller than other boys of his age. She later told him that a local couple who ran the nearby post office had asked to adopt John but for some reason the sisters did not allow this. John remained in contact with sister Anne until her death in 2002.
John remembers that he was always very well treated by the sisters and was very happy. However a key memory is of one night when he was seven or eight lying in bed among six other beds and realising that he had no family and praying to the Blessed Virgin that she be his mother. It was a very vivid memory and he believed that Our Lady did take on this role of mother from that night.
John left the Nazareth house at 16 to join the Servite Order. It was eventually decided that he did not have a vocation to this order and he was asked to leave. He was given ten pounds and a second-hand suit and asked to leave early in the morning before the rest of the brothers were awake. When he arrived in London he had no idea what to do and booked into a bed and breakfast. Also there was a young man who was working in a Catholic Bookshop in London. He took John to the shop the next day and John was given a job on the spot. One of the other Servite Brothers had promised to ask his father to help John and he was invited to stay in their home. The younger brother used to call John his elder brother. This meant a lot to someone who had never had a family. Having left religious life John was duly called up for National Service. He joined the Army Medical Corps as an administrator. His colonel, Colonel Barry took an interest in John and learning that he was a Catholic asked him if he had been getting to Mass on Sunday. When he learned that John had not been able to he told him to be at a certain gate that evening and took to taking John with him in his staff car. The other men used to joke that John could get away with anything because Colonel Barry had a soft spot for him.
John served part of his national service near the Cameroons. After his two years in the army he eventually decided that he was still had a vocation and was now ready for religious life. He contacted his old superior in the Servites who agreed to give John a good reference should he apply to another order.
John saw an advertisement in the Universe for the Brothers of Saint Gabriel and contacted a brother whom he always referred to as old Br John and went to stay for a weekend. Old brother John later lived with Br John in Longfield Road.
John entered the Boitissandeau novitiate of the Brothers of St Gabriel in 1964 and made his first vows on September 1, 1965. John then enrolled in the Oaklands College of Education, Wimbledon from 1965 to 1967. From 1967 to 1972 he spent 5 years teaching in Gabon (Mouila, Libreville, Oyem) which he loved. On his return to this country he studied for 2 years at the La Sainte Union Teacher Training College in Southampton.
In 1974 he took charge of a student house at 31 Parkside, Wimbledon and in July 1975 he made his final vows. Nearby the house on Parkside was the Embassy of Gabon and Br John struck up a friendship with the ambassador with who he would go jogging on Wimbledon Common. In 1978, the Parkside house being sold, the congregation established a student house in Ealing. For more than 35 years John ran this house and welcomed an impressive number of students from all walks of life. Brother John is remembered by the students who stayed with him for his remarkable generosity and kindness. In 2016, following a head injury resulting from a fall. He was hospitalised and then received into the St David’s Care Home in Ealing and then Nazareth House Hammersmith. It was somehow fitting that he ended his days in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth and he passed to his reward on 1st August 2020.