John, who lived in Hoxne in Suffolk with his wife Ellen, spent 12 years with the diocese, retiring in 2019, after a varied career as a banker, Army officer, military diplomat, military intelligence officer and Secretary of the Special Forces Club in London over a 58-year career.
John met Ellen, who was serving in Ottawa with HM Diplomatic Service, while he was negotiating with the Canadian Defence Department on behalf of the British Army for training facilities in Alberta. They were married for almost 50 years and had two sons and five grandchildren.
As Financial Secretary, John played a key role under two bishops and during the period of Sede Vacante after Bishop Michael’s death. The overall role was to support the bishop and the Diocesan Trustees in the routine management and strategic development and delivery of the diocesan mission.
During his appointment John was instrumental in many diocesan initiatives, including Alive in Faith, which is still funding social outreach, seminarian training and securing the future of our retired priests.
Bishop Emeritus Alan Hopes paid tribute saying: “I will always be grateful to John for the support and encouragement that he gave to me personally for nearly eight years, as the Diocesan Financial Secretary and for the many hours he happily invested in the life and mission of our Diocese. The Diocese has much to thank John for, for his service over many years.
“He had a deep Catholic faith and a great love for the Church and her mission. This infused his work and all that he did. I know that many of the clergy and parish treasurers were appreciative of the help and encouragement that he readily gave them. He was always open to new initiatives for raising much urgent funding, such as Alive in Faith, and was instrumental in setting it up across the Diocese ‑ no mean feat.
“He also faced major challenges head-on until they were sorted out, or at least progressed in the right direction. He was a true gentleman, always a calming and pragmatic presence in the Diocesan curial offices, making them a place where our staff felt valued and supported. He always gave his time to someone if they wished to see him and particularly if there were a real problem or a particular pressure worrying them.
“He had a dour sense of humour, which came from his Scottish roots, and regaled us with many amusing stories from his vast experience of life which we missed when he retired,” said Bishop Alan. “Our prayers should be with Ellen and his two sons, together with their grandchildren at this time. May he rest in peace.”
Bishop Peter Collins said: “The Diocese has much to be grateful for to John for his time as our Financial Secretary. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ellen who is a committed member of Diss parish and who is also on the committee of the Friends of the Cathedral. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.”
John’s wife Ellen said: “I think John himself was delighted and honoured to be appointed by the Diocese but I can still see a little bewilderment as he wondered what it would entail. He very quickly adapted and loved it all The new acquaintances and friends he was so fortunate to meet made his life at Poringland happy.
“It is sad that John’s health on retirement let him down, depriving him of the time he wanted to spend with the grandchildren; but he never gave up hope and his faith was a boost to my own. I know he will continue to be there for me even if not physically present as our long life together was a real blessing and leaves that dreadful ‘emptiness’.”
John’s funeral is planned for Tuesday August 1, at the Church of St Henry Morse in Diss at 11am, subject to confirmation. Priests are most welcome to concelebrate the Requiem Mass and all others are welcome to attend.
Pictured above is John Pitt with Bishop Emeritus Alan Hopes.