Bishop Gerald Moverley (14.12.1996) (Founding Father)

Bishop Gerald Moverley (14.12.1996) (Founding Father)

Bishop Gerald Moverley

1922-1996     Died 14 December 1996

The following personal memory was written by Monsignor Gerard Sheehy:

9 January 1957

In the summer of 1980 I had been invited to take part in the procession of clergy, out of doors, from the Cathedral Clergy House in Sheffield into the nearby Cathedral Church of St Marie. The occasion was the joyous one of the solemn Installation of Gerald Moverley – up to then the Auxiliary Bishop in Leeds – as the first Bishop of the newly-erected Diocese of Hallam. On a cold wintry day immediately preceding Christmas Eve of 1996, I took part in the clergy procession, along precisely the same outdoor route, this time to join in the concelebration of the solemn Funeral Mass of Bishop Gerald Moverley. The contrast was stark. It stood, and it remains, as a vivid reminder of the earthly pilgrimage of all of us.

I had first come to know Gerald Moverley in the early 1950s. I had just completed my doctorate studies in Canon Law in Rome. When we met there he – who had been ordained a couple of years before me and had served for some intervening years as Secretary to Bishop Poskitt of Leeds – was in the midst of his same Roman studies. It was for me the beginning of a friendship which was to remain a very valued one over more than forty years.

It was a friendship which was more than kindled by what in 1957 was to become the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Though I could not have known it at the time, Gerald Moverley was to become one of the “Founding Fathers” of that Society, in fact, when he died on 14 December 1996, he was the final remaining member of that originating intrepid and perceptive group of 1957. It was one of my privileges to have been elected to succeed him as President in 1974.

One of my primary recollections are surely those many visits which, at the Bishop’s invitation, I paid to his delightful home at “Quarters”, high up overlooking the city of Sheffield, and always with the kindly welcome and guidance of his devoted housekeeper, Miss   Eileen   Johnson.   I   have   a very vivid memory of Bishop Moverley being the Episcopal representative of the English-Welsh Bishops’ Conference at the international gathering in Ottawa sponsored by the Canadian Bishops in 1978, concerning Book II of the then proposed new Code of Canon Law (1983): it was a week-long meeting which had a profound effect – thanks in large measure to the then Bishop McNamara of Kerry (later Archbishop of Dublin). It was the successor to the original international meeting concerning Book VII, which, under the sponsorship of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, had been held in Dublin.

I recall Bishop Moverley staying with me, together with his brother, Cyril, on the occasion of the Holy Father’s visit to Ireland (1979), his first, apart from that to Poland, after his election as Pope. Together we attended the memorable Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park. It was precisely as we passed that spot, some few years later that Bishop Moverley had a critical heart attack in my car as we began the journey to what he had so often expressed the wish to see: Connemara, in the West of Ireland. Happily, we were able to reverse the car and go directly (traffic lights etc, notwithstanding!) to the Mater Hospital where he was looked after by the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin

As I watched his coffin being carried, shoulder-high down the aisle of St Marie’s Cathedral in Sheffield on the day before Christmas Eve 1996, I could not help thinking, with a real sorrow and yet with deep admiration: “there goes, to his earthly resting place in the crypt of his own Cathedral, the first Bishop of Hallam, one of the remaining founder members of our Canon Law Society”, the ever gentle Gerald Moverley, the man who succeeded in being the friend and the inspiration of all of us who had been his colleagues in this Society. May he rest in peace.


[Edited from CLSN 108, December 1996]