Tributes have been paid to a “kind” and “gentle” clergyman, who was much-loved among local Catholics.

Deacon John Kennedy, of St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Catholic Parish, in Cleator and Frizington, died on January 2 after a short illness. He was 90 years old.

John trained and worked as an electrician. He was ordained deacon in 1990, and worked closely with the parish priest to perform many duties including baptisms, weddings and burials.

He retired from these duties three years ago but still remained quietly active. His 90th birthday in August was marked by a happy family and parish celebration.

Fr Paul Johnstone, Parish Priest at St Mary’s and St Joseph’s, said: “John is very well-known and well-loved among local Catholics for his long life of faith and prayer.

“He was always faithful to his home parish, St Mary’s, Cleator, involved in all its activities. In the early 1990s he was ordained deacon.

“John represents to many people the strong faith community of Cleator and Cleator Moor. He was honoured for his kindness and gentleness. He was loved as an affectionate and generous brother and uncle.

“For most people he has ‘always been there’ and so his passing is a cause of real sadness - but also joy that he has gone to his richly deserved reward. May he rest in peace.”

More than 100 tributes have been posted on St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Catholic Parish Facebook page.

St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Cleator Moor wrote: “We are so sorry to hear this. Rest in Peace Deacon John. You are in our thoughts - from all at St. Patrick’s.”

Anne Price posted: “Such sad news. He was a true gentleman and a great friend to many. His faith and kindness shone from him.. I loved being in his company listening to the old tales. Rest in Peace.”