It is with sadness that we announce the death of Fr Christopher Gawecki, who died at home peacefully on Sunday 4th August.
Fr Christopher was with his sister, and supported by members of his family and the parish priest of Putney, Canon Michael O’Dea, at the time of his death. Gratitude is extended to members of the Sick and Retired Priests’ Committee who supported him during his final illness.
Fr Christopher’s mortal remains will be received into the Church of Our Lady of Pity and St Simon Stock, Hazlewell Road, Putney, SW15 6LU on Monday 12th August at 5pm. There will be a Vigil Mass at 7.30pm.
The Requiem Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday 13th August at 11.30 a.m. Bishop Nicholas Hudson will preside and Canon Michael O’Dea will preach. His burial will take place in Poland.
Clergy are asked to inform Canon Michael O’Dea (020 8788 1131, firstname.lastname@example.org) if they wish to concelebrate and are asked to bring white vestments. Parking near the church is very limited and requires meter parking.
The Cardinal and auxiliary bishops offer their condolences to Fr Christopher’s sister, Sonia, members of his family, friends, and former parishioners.
Born in Poland on 1st March 1939 and ordained to the priesthood as a Carmelite Friar on 22nd February 1968 by Bishop Julian Groblicki, Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków, Fr Christopher Gawecki was the second of seven children born to Anthony and Francesca Gawecki.
Fr Christopher’s first appointment as a priest was to a parish in Gdansk. In 1972 he was appointed to serve in Tadcaster as Assistant Priest, then in 1975 to Sittingbourne, followed by his appointment to Aylesford Priory in 1977 where he was Master of Ceremonies.
In 1979 Fr Christopher was appointed Assistant Priest at St Charles Square in the Diocese of Westminster. Two years later he was appointed to serve as Assistant Priest at Ruislip, followed by appointment the following year to Berkhamsted. His next appointment was to Spanish Place, in 1988. In 1994 he was appointed to Hillingdon, where he remained until 2002. He was then appointed Assistant Priest St Margarets-on-Thames, until his premature retirement from full time parish ministry early in 2008. While at Hillingdon and St Margarets-on-Thames Fr Christopher served as a Chaplain at Hillingdon Hospital, but retired from this ministry in 2006.
Fr Christopher’s request for early retirement, five years before the customary age, was supported by the diocese. He went to live with his elderly and disabled brother Stan in Putney. After the death of his brother, Fr Christopher felt the pain of loss deeply, and this seems to have remained with him. He generously offered to help priests locally, in the Archdiocese of Southwark, and in Westminster, as a supply priest. In recent months he had become unwell, and after a relatively short illness he died peacefully at home on 4th August 2019. His sister was with him at the time of his death, as was the local Parish Priest.
At his Funeral Mass on 13th August at the parish of Our Lady and St Simon Stock in Putney the homilist, who had come to know Fr Christopher well, spoke of his endearing sense of humour and lightheartedness, and of his devotion to the Mass and the Sacraments of the Church, and his care for people who were unwell. Fr Christopher lived frugally, perhaps as a legacy of war-time experience as he grew up in Poland and his experience of life in the Polish navy. When sent to England for ministry in a Carmelite parish Fr Christopher had to learn English, quickly. He adopted English customs and turns of phrase. Because English was not his first language his sense of humour and expressions could, on occasion, seem odd and subject to possible misinterpretation. He will be remembered for letting people know ‘I am British, and have sworn allegiance to the Queen’!
In February 2018 Fr Christopher celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. He responded to Cardinal Vincent’s letter of congratulations by including mention of his admiration for his fellow-countryman Pope Saint John Paul II. He wrote: ‘While responding to my vocation in the seminary in Poland I had the privilege of experiencing the guidance of Fr Karol Wojtyła who was later elevated to the papacy and then canonized.’ Fr Christopher celebrated his Jubilee, he continued, ‘…where it all started, in Poland.’ It was Fr Christopher’s wish that his mortal remains return to Poland for burial following his Funeral Mass.
After Masses, in the sacristy, Fr Christopher would often look at the Crucifix and say ‘Thank you Jesus.’ For all the good that Fr Christopher achieved as a priest, and for God’s mercy in the reality of his faults and failings, ‘Thank you Jesus.’
And thank you, Fr Christopher, for your generous response to God’s call to the Priesthood and for your ministry to God’s people.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.