Fr Owen Hardwicke, retired priest of Wrexham Diocese, died on 7 January after a short illness. His niece Mary Chabrel said: "He was in hospital from 25th December til he died in his sleep on 7th January. I think the fact that the friends at his bedside were former parishioners speaks volumes." Fr Owen was 94. An author and passionate campaigner for human rights, he worked throughout his life for justice and peace nationally and through the peace and justice centre in Wrexham.
An ecumenical vigil of prayer and music will take place on Wednesday, 23rd January at 6pm, in the church of St Francis of Assisi, Llay. This is where Owen was a parish priest for many years. His Requiem Mass will be on Thursday 24th January at 11am in St Mary's Cathedral, Wrexham.
If you would wish to write a card or tribute please send them to Mary Chabrel, 57 Breakspear Road, Abbots Langley, WD5 OER
Recalling Owen Hardwicke's work with Pax Christi, Pat Gaffney and Valerie Flessati write:
Owen's commitment to peace began well before his formal work with Pax Christi. He "served his country" (as he used to put it) as a conscientious objector during the Second World War, working with Friends Ambulance Unit in war-torn France and Belgium. He began his training for the priesthood in 1950. Owen was very ecumenical in spirit - born into the Church in Wales, received in the Catholic Church in 1946 and deeply drawn to the Quaker tradition too.
Owen's second profession was as a social worker, with 'disorganised young adults' in Wrexham and as a lecturer in social work at the North East Wales Institute. In 1970 he started the peace group in Wrexham which grew into the Wrexham Peace and Justice Centre, used by many over the years for meetings, conferences, and a resource base, including CAFOD and Pax Christi. In the 1980s Owen became secretary of CND Cymru and ever more involved in the burgeoning peace movement, active with the European Nuclear Disarmament Campaign, the World Disarmament Campaign, and a member of Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament (CCADD). As British Pax Christi's Disarmament Co-ordinator Owen gave talks all over the country and he became well known internationally through Pax Christi's Disarmament Commission, and the international executive committee where his expertise in disarmament and East-West issues was greatly valued. He represented Pax Christi International at the Bishops' Synod on Europe in 1991 and had dinner with Pope John Paul II.
Owen was appointed General Secretary of Pax Christi in 1985, a role he held until 1987. He made outreach to groups and members a core part of his work - being on the road much of the time and living between London and Wrexham. He worked with Gerry Hughes SJ on a Summer School in the Theology for peace activists and helped coordinate a conference in Ammerdown on the theme 'Liberation Theology and Us'. In 1986, writing in his first Annual Report he said: "We need to overcome our own hesitations about sharing in these Christian tasks of peacemaking without waiting for permission. We believe in the demands of the Gospel, and we want to respond more eagerly". He looked eagerly to the International Year of Peace in 1986 to help to grow Pax Christi and a deeper commitment within the Church to work for peace and justice.
One Pax Christi member recalls being with Owen in 1985 at the Holy Week gathering at Molesworth. Another writes that he was a trail-blazer, "He always said to leave your opponent with some dignity instead of celebrating your 'victory' and I hope I have kept to this lesson since."
His peace work continued beyond Pax Christi - back in Wrexham, in his letters and articles to the church press and in his writings. This includes The Gospel and Social Justice, 1989, Living Beyond Conformity 2001 and In Pursuit of Alternatives to War: Peace Campaigning in the Eighties - a Chronicle from Wrexham, 2006. This book was drawn from his informative and widely-circulated 'Comments and Quotes', the bi-monthly collection of articles and cartoons which Owen put together for many years. A review of 'Living Beyond Conformity describes Owen as a 'Priest of the Awkward Squad.' Those who knew Owen will know that means.
See Book: Owen Hardwicke's Living Beyond Conformity - First published on ICN - LONDON, 6 August 2001
and JOYOUS CELEBRATION TO MARK DIAMOND JUBILEE OF FAITHFUL PRIEST published byArchdiocese of Wrexham 05/01/14
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