Father Bernard Nesden
1920-1999 Died 15 July 1999
This obituary was prepared by Monsignor Richard Wilson: 6 October 1999
Bernard was born in Halifax on 15 December 1920. He was educated at St Bede’s in Bradford and before studying for the priesthood worked in Local Government. In his mid-thirties he went from Brighouse where he then lived to Osterley with a view to becoming a priest. He was accepted as a student for the Diocese of Northampton and was sent to the Beda College in Rome. He was ordained a priest at St Paul’s Basilica by the Abbot of St Paul’s, Bishop Cesario D’Amato, on 30 March 1963. He served as an assistant priest at Our Lady in Luton and St Joseph’s in Aylesbury, and as parish priest of St Ives, Ipswich and Hunstanton. He was appointed as Judicial Vicar of Northampton and then subsequently after the division of the diocese, he was appointed the Judicial Vicar of East Anglia; and also a Judge of the Westminster Metropolitan Tribunal. He retired in 1995 and spent his last years in retirement in the parish of St George’s, Norwich. He died after a long illness on 15 July 1999.
I can remember well the first time I met Bernard and the last time. Though 38 years separated these two events and the latter was when Bernard was dying, each left a memory of his irrepressible wit. He never lost the ability to ridicule pomposity but I never knew him to be cruel. His performances in the Beda College shows were legendary and he was delighted that a few of the more precious of us fellow students were shocked. I can remember many of his ‘bon-mots’ – and a few of his slightly ‘mal mots’. We had a happy hour not long before he died recalling some of them. Alongside his humour, however, there lay a deep spirituality and a love of ceremonies – he was a very good MC at the Beda and helped quite a few of the elderly gentlemen of the College, who didn’t know a thurible from a combine harvester when they arrived, to master the liturgical skills. As a priest he was approachable and down to earth and many can speak of his kindness and understanding not least in the confessional. Bernard displayed a great deal of practical common sense in his work as a Judge in the Westminster Tribunal, flavoured with droll comments and pithy wit. His own Diocese of East Anglia owes him a debt for his work as our first Judicial Vicar.
Bernard, in his early years, after Ordination, became very involved with the Canon Law Society. From the early sixties he was its Treasurer. This was never a post for which people queued up for election! After this he also acted for several years as the Master of Ceremonies at the Society’s residential Conferences.
The latter years of his life were bedevilled by illness – he suffered from a condition that caused him bouts of dizziness and then he was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. This he accepted with equanimity and his humour went on unabated. I witnessed the effect he had on the hospice in which he was a patient not long before he died. Doctors, nurses and patients were all won over by his wit and wisdom.
His funeral was attended by a great number of priests and of his past parishioners before his ashes were taken to his beloved Yorkshire for burial. Those of us who knew Bernard will treasure his memory. If there is laughter in paradise Bernard will certainly be adding to it. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 120, December 1999]