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Father Michael Youell, who served as a missionary priest in Peru and also as Parish Priest of St Marie’s and St Patrick’s and later St Raphael’s, Widnes died on Monday 30 November 2020 aged 77.
Michael Youell was born in Liverpool on 29th November 1943, the third of seven children born to Francis and Margaret Youell. He was educated at The Canon Kennedy Memorial School, Edge Lane, Liverpool, a school that was run by the Sisters of Mercy in the eastern part of Sacred Heart parish. At the age of 11 entered Upholland College. Whilst at Upholland he developed a great love for the stage, both acting and directing, and this was to remain a lifelong passion. Throughout his life he spent many hours with his sister, Mary, reading plays and visiting theatres. He often attended master classes at Liverpool Playhouse.
He was ordained priest at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, on 8th June 1968. Following ordination he was appointed as assistant priest at St Ambrose, Speke, but this was to be brief appointment of just a few months. In November 1968 he was appointed to Holy Name, Fazakerley, where he was to remain for nearly eight years. However, it was in 1972 that he first wrote to Archbishop Beck to request release from the archdiocese to serve in missionary work abroad, something that he had been considering for some time and indeed since before ordination. Archbishop Beck did not feel able to release him at that time and it was only on the eve of his retirement, in the early months of 1976, that the Archbishop finally gave Father Michael leave to work with the Society of St James in Latin America for five years. After completing the intensive language course at Boston, he was assigned to the Peru mission. After overcoming the initial language difficulties and some problems with altitude sickness, he settled in quickly and soon came to feel that he had found his true vocation.
During these years he worked in various Peruvian parishes, including Santa Rosa, in Talara and Cristo Rey in Chimbote. He loved the people and he worked tirelessly to raise money here in the UK to fund improvements to their lives. His main concern was to provide books and equipment to educate the children and to give them some treats. To this end he published journals of his time in South America and spent much of his holidays travelling round parishes here persuading people to donate. He returned to the archdiocese after seven years on the missions, but he would happily have stayed much longer, as these had been perhaps the happiest and most fruitful years of his priestly ministry.
He was appointed parish priest at St Marie’s, Widnes, in September 1983 and later took on responsibility for St Patrick’s as well. In early 1990 he became unwell and had a period of sick leave until June that year. He was then appointed as assistant priest at Our Lady of Lourdes, Birkdale, where he remained for about eighteen months. In November 1991 he was appointed parish priest at St Edmund of Canterbury, Waterloo. He was not to remain there very long, because in 1993 he returned to Latin America for a second stint on the missions.
His second period in Peru saw him working with another priest from the UK in establishing a new parish, building a church and somewhere for them to live. The project took several years to complete, but by this stage Michael had returned home. Unfortunately, he had been attacked on a visit to Lima and had a heart attack as a result. Ensuing heart surgery in the UK was not very successful, so his health from then on was impaired and he suffered periods of depression. He did manage a short period of active ministry in parishes here before ill health forced his retirement. He took up a temporary appointment in January 1998 at St Oswald, Old Swan, before returning to Widnes, this time as parish priest at St Raphael’s, in August that year. He remained at St Raphael’s until his retirement in 2000.
He died in the early hours of Monday 30th November 2020, the day after his 77th birthday. He had been a priest for 52 years.