Tributes have been paid this week to Father Stephen of Caldey Island, who first joined its monastic community over 65 years ago.
The 89-year-old monk died on Caldey on Friday April 4.
Originally from Yorkshire, Father Stephen was a convert to the Catholic faith who decided to enter the priesthood after serving with the Royal Air Force in World War II.
He came to Caldey in 1948, when the Cistercian community had just nine members.
The 1950s saw his ordination, followed by the study of theology at the Gregorian University in Rome before, in 1966, he became Procurator of Caldey Island.
He succeeded the legendary Brother Thomas Moore in this important role at the heart of the island’s economic life, with the continuing prosperity of the perfume business and the expansion of the tourist industry, and it was a position he held for 32 years. He also served as Prior between 1984 and 1999.
The Abbot of Caldey, Father Daniel, said that Father Stephen’s experiences in the Second World War had taught him ‘that life could not be treated as something cheap and disposable’, and that his resultant search for the meaning of life never wavered.
“He searched indefatigably for truth in God without ever letting go of the search for meaning in his human interactions,” said Father Daniel. “He was an avid reader of the classics, and kept reading the works of C.G. Jung on psychology, with the earnest desire to arrive at a deeper self-knowledge and profound understanding of others.
“Father Stephen was always prepared to listen with sympathy and allowed others to speak until he felt the time was ready to react as he believed God would react….he laughed, and we laughed with him, always reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously.”
The funeral and interment of Father Stephen - described by the Abbot as ‘brother, mentor and friend’ - took place on Caldey Island last Friday.