St Mary Magdalene
People and Memories
The Reverend Father Wilfrid Johnson
Wilfrid Johnson was born in New York in 1914, where his father was a member of the Diplomatic Corps. On returning to England, the family settled in Beaconsfield and Wilfrid received his secondary education at Beaumont College, a Jesuit boarding school. He was a member of the college rowing Eight and, between 1930 and 1933, he won 8 cups for single and double sculls.

He was accepted as a student at the Pontifical Scots College and the Gregorian University, Rome and was ordained by Archbishop Traglia on December 19th, 1938.

Fr. Wilf spent less than a year as a curate at his first parish, St Joseph's, Bedford, before moving to the St Francis Home at Shefford, the diocesan boys' home.

He improved the living conditions of the boys, despite the shortages of the war years. He organised a scout troop and also an annual 3 week camp at the seaside. He arranged for all the boys to spend their holidays with private families. He also organised rugby, soccer and cricket teams.

Father Wilfrid Johnson
In 1954, Fr. Wilf was appointed as parish priest at St Francis de Sales in Wolverton, arriving there on Friday 30th July. At that time the parish included Stony Stratford.

In 1967, Fr Wilf was in Lourdes, France when he was told that the Bishop of Northampton, Bishop Grant, wanted him to move to the larger parish of Wellingborough, whose priest had recently died, immediately on his return home. Fr. Wilf emphasised how happy he was at Wolverton and how loath he was to leave it, but would, if the Bishop so desired, fall in with his wishes.

He remained at Wellingborough until his retirement in 1990. In 1972, He oversaw the building of another new church, St Edmund Campion, which was to serve a developing area of the town.

Fr. Wilf had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and was, for many years, the director of the diocesan pilgrimage. His affection for Lourdes reflected his love of all things French, he was renowned, in fact, for wearing a beret and sandals.

He seriously considered living in Lourdes after his retirement but, instead, made several pilgrimages each year, often sponsoring a handicapped child for the trip.

Fr. Wilf retired, reluctantly, in 1990 and went to live in Luton. There, he became assistant chaplain to the Luton and Dunstable General Hospital, where he spent 3 days each week visiting the wards. He was pleased to be able to continue his ministry.

On February 23rd, 1994 he was found dead in his armchair at home, a glass of French wine by his elbow.