.- A priest who is a close family friend and former tennis partner of former prime minister Tony Blair has been celebrating 60 years of life as a Catholic priest.
Fr. John Caden realized he wanted become a priest from a very early age and went to Ushaw College. He has been serving the Catholic community at Sedgefield, County Durham for 42 years despite being told "it wasn't the sort of place you'd want to stay for life."
The Universe reports that the 85-year-old priest baptized the four Blair children and was one of the few present at the former Labour leader's reception into the Catholic Church.
Fr. Jack, as he is affectionately known, has many special memories of his time at Sedgefield, including sharing a meal and getting a round of drinks for Blair and the U.S. president George W. Bush.
"I remember getting non-alcoholic lager for President Bush and a Coke for Tony Blair and then actually having lunch with them on a table for 10. I had to keep pinching myself to reassure myself it was happening to me aged 80. Surreal is the only word to describe it."
Fr. Caden now helps run the parishes of Sedgefield, Trimdon and Coxhoe. At St. John Fisher Catholic Church, Sedgefield, two Sunday Masses are barely sufficient to accommodate worshippers, a situation that he describes as "a wonderful problem to have."
He has served for 25 years as chairman of governors at Carmel Roman Catholic College in Darlington, where he continues to celebrate a fortnightly Mass.
He was joined last week at a special diamond jubilee (60 year anniversary in Britain) Mass at Sedgefield, by Frs. George Dolan and Bill Bellamy, who were ordained alongside him. Another celebratory Mass, on the exact anniversary of his ordination, was held this week at St. Josephâs in Coxhoe.