Fr Adrian died peacefully at Frimley Park Hospital, Camberley on 24th January, having been admitted the previous day.
Fr Adrian was born in August 1931 and ordained to the priesthood in June 1960. He retired from full time ministry in 2004 and was living in Maidenhead.
The Funeral Mass will take place on Wednesday 20th February at 12noon at St Joseph’s church, 36 Cookham Road, Maidenhead SL6 7EG. Mgr Tom McGrath, of Portsmouth Diocese will preside, as requested by Fr Adrian, and Fr Brian Reynolds will give the homily. Cremation will follow the Funeral Mass.
Sympathy is extended to Fr Adrian’s family and friends, and former parishioners.
Fr Adrian Walker will be fondly remembered by many who knew him over his fifty-eight years of priestly life and ministry as an intelligent, gifted and self-effacing man. He was generous with his time and energy. Enduring, and endearing, characteristics of humility and generosity remain in evidence following his death. He made it known that the homily to be given at his funeral should have ‘few biographical references but concentrate on the manner in which I have lived my priesthood and on the influence the programme and spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous has had in my life since November 1968’. He also wrote about his desire for his mortal remains to be given for the benefit of scientific research. Not everything that is requested can be granted.
In May 1992 the diocesan newspaper, the ‘Westminster Record’, published a profile of Fr Adrian under the heading ‘Enthusiasm at its best’. The article described some of Fr Adrian’s qualities and achievements, thirty-two years into his ministry. He was ‘a doer… something of a whirlwind…’
Adrian Walker was born on 6 August 1931. Both parents were converts to Catholicism, and they sent their son to be educated by Jesuits at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire. Adrian’s father’s embrace of the Catholic faith was inspired by the example of a Catholic Chaplain in the Great War, and Adrian, in his turn, was inspired by his father. Adrian served in the Navy. Despite his obvious intelligence he eschewed any thought of a commission: he was never ambitious for status or preferment throughout his life. He was accepted as a student for the priesthood by Cardinal Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster, and he was sent to Allen Hall at St Edmund’s College, Ware. He was ordained to the priesthood on 11 June 1960 by Cardinal Godfrey. He was then sent to Rome for further studies, in philosophy at the Angelicum University, and lived at the Pontifical Beda College. On his return to the Diocese Fr Adrian’s first appointment was to Edmonton, as Assistant Priest where he served from 1964-1971 when he was appointed to work as a Chaplain to London University, living at Newman House, Gower Street. After two years he was given a new appointment, as Assistant Priest at Bayswater. In 1976 Fr Adrian was appointed Parish Priest at Stevenage, Pin Green. In 1981 he was appointed to have oversight of the four Stevenage parishes. His next appointment was to Staines, serving as Parish Priest from 1987 until his appointment to Millwall, in 1994, a parish without a church (the old church was closed in December 1994 having been declared structurally unsafe and then demolished in the summer of 1995), hall or presbytery but in need of a priest with experience, vision and energy. The parish, in the developing Docklands area, was changing and Fr Adrian’s vision and energy were well-suited to the emerging needs of the parish and neighbourhood. Cardinal Hume gave Fr Adrian much encouragement, including a large donation to the building fund. The Cardinal went to Millwall to bless the foundation stone for the new church and wrote a message of support for the ambitious fundraising efforts in 1999. Parishioners from Staines also gave Fr Adrian great support. The newly-built church and complex was open for use in 2000 with Cardinal Cormac celebrating Mass there in September. In 2004 Fr Adrian retired from full time parish ministry, having requested this some two years before the usual age of 75. He knew it was time to stand down and embrace a new rhythm of priestly living.
Fr Adrian’s commitment to ecumenism was vitally expressed during his eleven years at Stevenage. The church at Stevenage was shared by Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists. After five years at Stevenage the team ministry was established. The new arrangements preserved the geographical identities of the four parishes but with a shared church for all. Fr Adrian put all his energy into this project, supported by other priests and Religious Sisters on the parish team, and by local Christian ministers. The local Catholic and wider community were broadly supportive of this innovative ecumenical plan. As anticipated, there were some detractors. The years at Stevenage allowed Fr Adrian’s liturgical and theological creativity to flourish. This was coupled with zeal for the pastoral care of his parishioners and their formation in liturgy and theology. He knew that, after eleven years, it was time to ask for another appointment.
The parish of Staines was to benefit from Fr Adrian’s intelligence, experience and commitment and his unconventional way of facing and progressing challenging situations. He re-ordered the church, positioning the altar away from the sanctuary and into the north aisle, complete with the wooden baldacchino. The result made for more intimacy in the church, spreading into the parish. The parish hall expanded, occupying space in the adjacent presbytery which provided modest accommodation for the Parish Priest. In 1990 the parish celebrated its centenary, and Fr Adrian invited Cardinal Hume to lead the celebrations. With his care for detail, Fr Adrian sent to the Cardinal, well in advance, briefing notes on the history of the parish, the list of invited guests, and matters deserving of the Cardinal’s notice in preparing his homily.
Fr Adrian will be remembered for his informality, and for being somewhat unconventional in his approach and practice. He will also be remembered, and admired, for fifty years of sobriety supported by, and giving support to, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. He was devoted to his priesthood, and gave little time for his hobbies of cooking, reading and classical music. He made time to prepare and give retreats at Aylesford at the annual gatherings of AA.
On 24 January 2019 Fr Adrian died peacefully in hospital, having been admitted the previous evening. He had been retired from fulltime parish ministry for fifteen years, but kept himself busy with supply ministry in parishes close to his home in Maidenhead. He remained faithful to an hour of prayer every morning and the daily celebration of Mass. The onset of Alzhiemers in his eighties did not alter his disposition of kindness and respect for others, especially those who treated him and cared for him. A friend commented ‘doesn’t Adrian realise that everyone feels better when he comes into the room?’ And now we pray that Fr Adrian will be welcomed by the God he knew, loved and served, to take his place in Heaven. May this humble man and faithful priest rest in peace.