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We announce the sad news of the death of Fr David Gilbert Wilson. Fr David died peacefully in France where he was living with the L’Arche community ‘Les Trois Fontaines’ at Ambleteuse, his home for many years.

Born on 16th August 1938 in London and ordained to the priesthood on 29th June 1970, Fr David devoted his priestly life to people with special needs and to those who were differently gifted.

Condolences are extended to Fr David’s family and friends and to the L’Arche community at Ambleteuse in northern France.

We pray for the repose of Fr David's soul:

Almighty and eternal God,
hear our prayers for your son Fr David
whom you have called from this world to yourself.
Grant him light, happiness and peace.
Let him pass in safety through the gates of death, and live for ever with all your saints in the light you promised to Abraham and to all his descendants in faith.
Guard him from all harm
and on that great day of resurrection and reward raise him up with all your saints.
Pardon his sins and give him eternal life in your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.



Fr David Wilson had one sibling, Corinne, his older sister to whom he was very close and who died in 2010. But he had become part of the large family of L’Arche with whom he lived in France since 1987 until his death on 1st July 2022. He was born to Gilbert and Lucille in London on 16th August 1938. David’s French-Canadian mother was a practising Catholic, his father, a senior professor of  archaeology at Imperial College, London University, was not a Catholic (until many years later) but was supportive of the Catholic ethos of the family home in Knightsbridge.

Part of David’s early childhood was spent with his mother in Montreal during World War II. When back in England St Mary’s, Cadogan Street was the church where David attended Mass, daily, when he became aware of a vocation to the priesthood. His application to the Diocese, in 1964 at the age of 25, was supported by the Parish Priest, Bishop David Cashman. At this time David was studying for a post-graduate Diploma in Education at London University. Before that he studied at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, from 1959 to 1962 and was awarded Bachelor of Arts in Geography. He had also done National Service in the Army from 1957 to 1959. His school education was at Ampleforth from 1952 to 1956 preceded by five years at St Martin’s Preparatory School, North Yorkshire.

In September 1964 David began his formation as a student for the priesthood at Allen Hall, St Edmund’s College, Ware in Hertfordshire. His parents were keen to contribute to the cost of his accommodation and studies, then £300 p.a., and a cheque for the full amount was sent for the first year of studies. David was expected to persevere! 

David was assigned to Ss Sebastian and Pancras, Kingsbury Green as a Deacon in 1969. He won the appreciation of the Parish Priest and parishioners for being hard working and a man of prayer. His approach to catechetics was innovative and effective as he shared his faith with, and taught, children at non-Catholic schools on Saturday mornings. He worked with the choir, teaching new hymns as he helped the parish become more liturgically up to date in the post-Vatican II era. When his time in the parish has come to completion the Parish Priest wrote about David’s contribution to the life of the parish to the Rector of Allen Hall Seminary: ‘His impact on the Parish was tremendous and everybody was sorry when he had to go...a tireless worker from menial work (polishing floors!) to top class organization. He was a most spiritual man and had time for everybody. I can thoroughly recommend him as a most suitable candidate for Ordination’.

On 29th June 1970 David was ordained to the priesthood in the chapel at St Edmund’s College by Bishop Victor Guazzelli, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster from May 1970 until he retired in December 1996. 

The Annunciation, Burnt Oak was Fr David’s first appointment as a newly ordained priest. He served in the parish from 1970 to 1972 when he went to Lille, France to study for a Licence in Theology with the aim of returning to teach in the seminary. In response to Cardinal Heenan’s invitation to undertake further studies Fr David wrote, ‘I believe that for theology to be truly living it must not lose sight of the pastoral situation’.

In 1974 Fr David was appointed ‘Chaplain to the Handicapped in the Diocese’, based at St Vincent’s in Carlisle Place SW1. Working with two Religious Sisters Fr David created original programmes for catechetics and care for people with disabilities and their families. He set up the centre at St Joseph’s in Hendon.

In 1987 he returned to France to work with L’Arche, founded in 1964 as a worldwide federation of people with and without learning disabilities, now in over 30 countries, working together for a world where all belong. Fr David spent the rest of his priesthood among people with special needs and differently gifted, and with people devoted to the care of people that some others found difficult to understand or accept. Fr David, and others, demonstrated the kind of love that embraced people unconditionally. He sacrificed his options in favour of those whose options were restricted, not through choice but circumstances.

Alongside ministry at L’Arche Fr David served the local parish and forged links with local clergy and parishioners of the Diocese of Arras. Every five years his contract for continuing ministry in France was renewed at Fr David’s request with the support of L’Arche and the Bishop of Arras. Fr David maintained regular contact with the Diocese of Westminster, sending regular letters and information bulletins to successive Archbishops of Westminster.

In 2016 Fr David retired from active ministry and chose to remain in France with L’Arche in Ambleteuse. The following year Fr David’s health began to decline and his need for care increased. He was transferred to a care home close to where he had been living to receive 24-hour care. In a letter to Cardinal Vincent in April 2017 the Regional Leader at L’Arche wrote, ‘It is a mystery to see how, after all these years of ministry at L’Arche, Fr David has become and will become closer still to the reality lived by our members with disabilities’. He continued to have many visitors, and he was regularly taken out for trips. 

In August 2018 Fr David celebrated his eightieth birthday and in June 2020 he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the Priesthood. Writing to congratulate him, Cardinal Vincent let Fr David know ‘I join many people who will be thanking God for all the gifts that he gives. Among those gifts, one of the most precious is a vocation to the Priesthood…When we find this vocation and follow it generously our lives are marked by a profound sense of peace and happiness’. Peace and happiness were gifts that Fr David shared with those with whom he so generously shared his life.

Fr David had a great love of theatre and he came to appreciate opera on discovering that some could be humorous. Despite all the years Fr David spent in France he remained ‘very, very English… His simplicity in his relations, his sense of humour and sometimes even his eccentricity were noticed and appreciated’, as communicated with the notice of his death on 1st July. He was a familiar figure rollerblading on the embankment at Ambleteuse and on the ice skating rink.

He eschewed clericalism associated with self-interest, privilege and entitlement. On a visit to Rome he had to make a clerical collar by cutting a plastic bottle to be suitably attired to meet the Pope. Over the years he remained faithful to his twice-daily routine of time for quiet prayer and bible study. His homilies were brief: they did not have to be long because the way he lived spoke volumes.

Over the years he travelled widely, visiting L’Arche communities and leading retreats and delivering training to staff and volunteers. Wherever he went, and with everyone he met, he shared his commitment to the value of every person as he worked to promote the dignity of all. His very presence, and his ubiquitous smile, were visible signs of his love for all.

In recent years Fr David’s own needs enabled members and friends of L’Arche to embrace him with the care and compassion he had so readily extended to others. When increased frailty necessitated transferring to a local retirement home he continued to influence the lives of others by his faith, his gentleness and his trust in the Lord.

He was accompanied and surrounded by love when the Lord called him to eternal life. He received the Sacrament of the Sick on 27th June and four days later passed peacefully into the loving embrace of the Lord whom he knew, loved and served.

On the day of his death the L’Arche community expressed sadness, writing of Fr David, ‘We are at the same time sad and grateful for everything he has brought to everyone and to the whole community including the parish, the village and around the world. His kindness, his humility, his unconditional love for everyone…we give thanks that we have known and loved him’. 

Fr David’s Funeral Mass and burial took place on 4th July in Ambleteuse, Pas de Calais in northern France.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.