CAFOD staff and volunteers have paid their respects to retired Wrexham priest and great advocate for peace, Fr Owen Hardwicke, following his death on 7 January.
Fr Owen's commitment to peace - he grew up as a Quaker - led to him being instrumental in the founding of the Wrexham Peace and Justice Centre over 25 years ago. He invited any religious organisations who were interested in justice and peace work to use his building - and it was here in 1988 that three La Sainte Union Sisters created community and established an office for CAFOD.
Decades later, the building is still home to CAFOD's volunteer centre in the Wrexham Diocese.
Before the building was used officially as a peace centre, Cardiff-born Fr Owen opened the house up as a stepping stone to young men who had faced exclusion from society. During the war, as a conscientious objector, he had worked as an ambulance driver and stretcher carrier. He later lectured in sociology in Wrexham. As a parish priest he would encourage young parishioners, who had received the Sacrament of Confirmation, to put their faith into action by working for organisations like Greenpeace and CAFOD.
Sr Vianney Connolly, who worked as a CAFOD volunteer in the peace centre for over 25 years, said: "Over the course of 25 years I was privileged to work in close contact with to Fr Owen Hardwicke.
"He was the most extraordinary, gifted and humble man. His experiences with a wide range of different people meant he was at home with humanity and I don't think I've ever met anyone who was so Christ-like. He lived the gospel and was very supportive of CAFOD.
"His love for humanity and his ability to stand by his convictions meant he had an integrity I found wonderful. He was an individual with a great heart and a life-long commitment to peace."
CAFOD's Director, Chris Bain, added: "Fr Owen Hardwicke's commitment to justice and peace was inspiring, and allowed CAFOD's presence in Wrexham to flourish. His passing is a huge loss to our CAFOD family, both in North Wales and internationally."
Prior to his death, Fr Owen wrote: "My death, like everyone else's, was inevitable. My life, like everyone else's, was simply gratuitous. I did not ask to live, but I'm glad I did.
"I have lived in the midst of much human warmth and affection, and some special instances which have been totally remarkable. I hope that even my death will draw some people closer together and deeper into the unfathomable mystery of God, who is love."
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