The Archdiocese of Birmingham is sad to announce the death of Monsignor Paul Watson, parish priest of St Benedict’s in Atherstone, Warwickshire and the Director of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham from 2000-2012, who died on Tuesday 16 October 2018, aged 69.

Mgr Paul was the second director of Maryvale Institute, the internationally acclaimed distance-learning centre in the Catholic faith, specifically for the formation of lay people in the Church. He oversaw the life and work of the Institute for 12 years, building on the foundations laid by the founding director Mgr Daniel McHugh. 

Mgr Paul strengthened Maryvale’s academic standing through new partnerships with universities in the UK and abroad. Whilst continuing in its original role as the catechetical centre for the Archdiocese, links flourished with countries including Ireland, Scotland, the United States and Cameroon; all places which Maryvale engaged in the work of Catechesis.

It was during Mgr Paul’s time as director that the Institute was granted ecclesiastical status and established as a Higher Institute of Religious Sciences, recognised by the Holy See as a place of learning that combines academic excellence with fidelity to Catholic teaching. It remains the only such institution in the English-speaking world.

However, Mgr Paul saw the academic mission of Maryvale not as an end in itself, but as playing a vital part in equipping the laity for their role in the New Evangelisation, to which he was totally committed and which he saw also as something fundamental to his own priestly ministry. 

He was never happier than when teaching the faith to an eager and receptive group of students, and he would emphasise repeatedly the importance to all catechesis of the kerygma that lies at the heart of the Church’s proclamation – a point recently reinforced by Pope Francis in his 2013 exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.  

Mgr Paul’s areas of special interest as a teacher included the scriptures and spirituality (which he studied at a higher level during a two-year sabbatical in Rome in the 1980s), as it is there above all that he believed we encounter most closely the person and the message of Jesus Christ.  

As well as his teaching ministry at Maryvale, which he continued even after he left, as far as his health would allow, Mgr Paul was also in demand as a visiting lecturer around the UK and abroad and he wrote extensively, reaching a worldwide audience through his reflections on the daily scriptures in the monthly publication Bible Alive. 

Mgr Paul first served as priest at Kings Norton from 1974-76. He was on the staff at Cotton College, 1976-77; at Maryvale parish 1977-82 and St Chad’s Cathedral, 1983-85 and St Austin, Stafford, 1985-87.
His sabbatical in Rome ran from 1987-89, after which he was Parish Priest in Stoke on Trent, 1989-97 and Aldridge 1997-1999.He was director of Maryvale Institute from 2000-2012 and was made Monsignor in 2008. Mgr Paul became parish priest of St Benedict’s in Atherstone in 2014.

Mgr Paul had a great capacity for friendship, especially with other priests.  Whenever one had a conversation with him it would always be about the things of the Lord, understanding of scripture and theological matters and when you left him one always felt uplifted, inspired and encouraged.

Archbishop Bernard Longley commends Mgr Paul’s soul to the loving mercy of Almighty God and prays that he will see God face to face at the Resurrection, a subject which Mgr Paul studied, preached and taught throughout his priestly life.