A PRIEST who died suddenly just one month before he was due to retire has been honoured with a “beautiful” memorial window.

Father James Hawes, who was in charge of The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Epping, had a heart attack last June.

The 77-year-old’s parishioners had donated money to buy him a retirement gift before his death, which was ultimately used to pay for the window.

His friend and fellow priest at the same church, Father John McGrath, said: “He was an outstanding preacher, he was very attentive to the needs of the people - particularly those who were sick.

“He would be very supportive to everyone. Being a priest was his whole way of life.

“But he had other hobbies, and enjoyed reading and the arts.”

Father Hawes was born in Romford and devoted his life to studying the bible, and was ordained in Rome.

He had a great love of languages and was fluent in French and Italian, and owned a library containing over 2,000 books.

Before he moved to Epping 14 years ago, he had been a parish priest in Colchester for 52 years.

He managed to force some strong links with the Diocese of South Africa and was passionate about supporting missions and charities across the world.

Father Hawes added: “Although we were very different people and had different interests, we were still great friends.

“He was a great friend to me, we served together as young priests in Barking and so we have shared a lot together.”

The window shows the symbol of Saint James, who Father Hawes was devoted to, the bible, and Jesus’s name in Latin script.

It depicts the pilgrim’s journey through the Word to The Lord was and was designed by former parishoner, Andrew Smith.

Father Hawes added: “We are pleased with the window, it’s good memory to have.

“It’s a great recognition of the service and devotion he gave to the parish and church.”