Fr Aidan CR passed away in peace on Friday 17th September. He was in his 91st year and the 58th year of his profession in the Community.
Bishop Peter Wheatley offers a personal recollection
I know the London Parishes of Holy Trinity, Stroud Green, in which Fr Aidan was baptised and the churches in Colindale and Burnt Oak which nurtured him and his family in the Catholic faith. He was grateful for this early formation, and for his subsequent training before and after ordination. I know little of his title post and training incumbent, except that it must have been good. I also remember his asking me what I had been reading. I replied that I had read the biographies of two Church of England bishops, among the most notable of the last fifty years. ‘Just think,’ he said, ‘how much greater they would have been if they had had a good training incumbent.’ He retained a lively sense of what makes for good parochial ministry and the formation needed in parish priests. As a member of the General Synod and on the national Board of Ministry he was forthright in holding officers and bishops to account. His service of the Church was recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury awarding him the Cross of St Augustine.
For most of Fr Aidan’s priestly ministry, he has been a member of the Community of the Resurrection. A community of priests is a strong force for exercising priesthood corporately. It is more than the sum of their numbers. The Community at prayer together is in itself a powerful force for bringing people to God and sanctifying them. A community can allow a degree of specialisation if a priest has particular gifts. We give thanks for Father Aidan’s sharing in the life of the Community: preaching, missions, retreat-giving, trustee of the College of the Resurrection, sometime Bursar, spiritual director to a wide range of bishops, priests, laity and fellow religious such as the Sisters of St Margaret and the Sisters at Horbury. In London, he and Sister Mary Teresa SSM were an effective partnership in chaplaincy to university students, as no doubt he had been in South Africa at Stellenbosch. Many of those students have gone on to be leaders of their own church communities.
In 1958, Fr Aidan was ordained to the priesthood in Lichfield Cathedral by Bishop Arthur Stretton Reeve. A few months later, Angelo Roncalli was elected Pope John XXIII and two days later he told his Secretary that he intended to call a Council of the whole Church, with far-reaching consequences. How very different the Church is now to what it was in 1958 and we thank God for Fr Aidan’s faithfulness as a priest and stalwart member of his community through all the changes and challenges of the subsequent 63 years.
A fellow bishop describes him as ‘a great soul, deep yet light of touch, solemn yet such fun’. The Community will write their own insightful and affectionate obituary. May the memory of Aidan help to inspire others to hear a call to the priestly and religious life.
Fr David Houlding recalls a faithful servant
A tap on the shoulder from behind in the lunch queue; General Synod 1995. There was Fr Aidan who I’d not seen since he was assistant chaplain at Christ the King, Gordon Square, when it was the university chaplaincy and I was but a student. His expertise came to the fore again in 2000 when I asked him to become chaplain to the Catholic Group. He enjoyed it very much, as he did the whole Synod culture. At times he could be a little mischievous and wind people up, but he was extremely conscientious and took his responsibilities seriously. Perhaps that explains why he was always listened to and respected by all constituencies, even if he didn’t have anything in particular to say. It was extraordinary. His friends were across the whole church but he was definitely a catholic and was especially loyal to the Catholic Group.
He collected bishops and was the same with them as he was with anyone he met on the street or in church after a service. He was even known to tell bishops off. Certainly he enjoyed being in parishes, especially on missions. He preached for me several times and once came to All Hallows for Holy Week. After the Good Friday liturgy he went on ahead of me and I got home to find him in the garden opening a bottle of champagne. “It’s all over,” he said with a grin. “The triumph of the Cross!” There was something subversive about him which enjoyed breaking rules. He was partial to a tipple, usually Scotch, and it was said he kept a bottle under his bed at Mirfield.
Aidan lived for many years at the Community house in Covent Garden. It was wonderful having him in London and many clergy made a beeline there for quiet days and spiritual direction. The hospitality was very generous. He had the gift of encouragement and could make you happy even in the deepest doldrums. He had empathy and was non-judgmental. The classic Aidan line on Holy Saturday: “Where is Jesus now? He’s busy looking for his friend Judas!” He was always interested in news, he liked to know what was going on – ‘to inform my prayers’. He was a great supporter of SSC, making a great effort to join its events. He was also one for a big do and never missed the National at Walsingham.
There can be no mistaking he was a serious, committed and loving person, with great loyalty. He kept going until the very end, including his involvement on the Number One Trust. I shall miss his humour, his friendship, and his understanding. A good holy man, fun to be with, and never pious. May he rest in peace.