With sadness, we announce the death, on 6th September, of Fr Stephen Francis Xavier Delany. Fr Steve died peacefully in hospital in Ivrea, northern Italy, close to where he had been living at Castellamonte, Piedmont. He was admitted to hospital on 4th September.
Fr Steve was born in London on 1st January 1940 and ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Westminster on 12th June 1965 in Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal John Heenan. Fr Steve was a member of the Neo-catechumenal Way.
Sympathy is extended to Fr Steve’s family and friends, and to the clergy and parishioners of his former parishes in the diocese and where he served as an itinerant missionary.
Fr Steve's funeral Mass will take place on 9th September at the parish church of Castellamonte, Piedmont, in Italy, at 15:00 local time.
Fr Stephen Francis Xavier John Delany was a Londoner who heard the call to announce the Gospel and to do so as a missionary disciple of the Lord and a member of the Neocatechumenal Way and priest of the Diocese of Westminster.
Stephen was born in south London on 1st January 1940, just a few months after the start of World War II. His parents, John and Elizabeth Delany, were practicing Catholics. After the war had ended the family was blessed to have another child, Martina. When Stephen was thirteen years of age it was known and accepted that he wanted to be a priest and in September 1953 the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Godfrey, wrote to Stephen’s parents to let the know that their son had been accepted as a junior candidate for the priesthood and he would soon be starting his studies at St Edmund’s College, Ware. This brought an end to his time at Finchley Catholic Grammar School. He had been strongly recommended as a candidate for the priesthood by Fr Joseph Geraerts, Parish Priest of Hampstead where the Delanys attended Mass. The young Stephen was a daily Mass-goer, serving at the altar and singing with enthusiasm. However, at Allen Hall, the seminary attached to St Edmund’s College, Stephen struggled with the studies. It was decided that he needed additional support and in 1960 he left Allen Hall for Campion House, Osterley, where he remained for two years. He resumed studies at Allen Hall and in December 1964 he was ordained to the diaconate. On 12th June 1965 Stephen was ordained to the priesthood in Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Heenan.
Fr Stephen’s first appointment as a newly ordained priest was to Pimlico where he lived with and ministered alongside Fr (later Canon) Edmund Hadfield. He was given the date when he was expected to arrive, Friday 16th July 1965. Fr Stephen served as Assistant Priest until 1968 when he was appointed Assistant Priest at Pinner where he remained for two years. His next appointment was to Commercial Road, as Assistant Priest, from 1970-1982.
In 1975 Fr Stephen began his association with the Neocatechumenal Way. The Way was present in three parishes of east London: Commercial Road, Limehouse and Mile End. Bishop Victor Guazzelli, Auxiliary Bishop in East London, gave encouragement and support to the Way, and to Fr Stephen who embraced itinerancy for the purpose of giving catechesis in various place in and beyond the diocese. He travelled to Bangalore to work with Neocatechumenal communities from April to July, and again in November, in 1982.
Cardinal Hume wrote to Fr Stephen in February 1983, giving permission for him to return to Pakistan as an itinerant catechist as Fr Stephen had requested, and expressed the view that he would return to his home diocese to share his experience. From this time Fr Stephen was, officially, an ‘itinerant catechist’.
In March 1983, Fr Stephen, now signing his name as Steve, wrote to Cardinal Hume from St Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi, Pakistan to give an account of his endeavours among English-speaking Catholics in that city, and with catechists especially. His priority was to ‘proclaim the kerygma’ in a challenging situation and to help to establish a catechumenal community if this is what was desired. He asked the Cardinal to communicate with him as though he was a layman. ‘The reason for this…here they aren’t too keen on admitting European missionaries, so we spare them the embarrassment of having their attention drawn to it…’. His next letter, two months later, reported that communities had been formed in two parishes. He concluded by writing ‘I feel God is pushing me around very constructively for my own good’. By the autumn three communities had been established in Karachi.
In March 1986, Fr Stephen wrote to Cardinal Hume from Stoke Newington, asking permission to go to the Diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria to work as an itinerant catechist. Permission was given.
Cardinal Cormac wrote to Fr Stephen, based for a while in Mile End, in November 2002 in response to a letter from Fr Stephen requesting permission to continue his work as an itinerant catechist ‘at home and abroad’. Permission was given.
In November 2009 Fr Stephen wrote to the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, to introduce himself. He gave a summary of his years of missionary activity as a member of the Neocatechumenal Way, in the UK, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, South Africa, Qatar, the USA and Italy – and supply ministry in Stoke Newington! He requested permission to go to Denmark, to work in the Redemptoris Mater seminary and to serve as a local catechist. Permission was given, along with an invitation to come to Archbishop’s House to meet with the Archbishop.
Those who knew and worked with Fr Stephen recall him with affection. He will be remembered for his commitment to the Church and to the proclamation of the kerygma, the core message of the Gospel. Outwardly perhaps casual and care-free he had a strong interior life of faith. He knew God’s mercy in his own life and he wanted others to have the same experience. He had a sharp and witty sense of humour and could be direct with people as he proclaimed truth and justice. He quickly made peace with those he may have offended, and he readily accepted the forgiveness offered by others. He could be difficult, even infuriating, but his compassion shone through, along with his sense of fun.
Fr Stephen died peacefully in hospital in Ivrea, close to where he had been living in Castellamonte, near Turin in the north of Italy. He was much loved by members of the Neocatechumenal Way in many countries where he had served over many years, and by his sister Martina. He died on 6th September at the age of 81 years.
A priest in India who was, as a young man, impressed by Fr Stephen’s zeal, wrote a tribute to Fr Stephen after his death: ‘Dear Steve, your penetrating words and sharp wit delivered through those nicotine-stained teeth have left you forever etched in our memories’.
May this missionary disciple and priest rest in peace and rise in glory.
We pray for the peaceful repose of Fr Stephen’s soul:
Hear with favour our prayers,
which we humbly offer, O Lord,
for the salvation of the soul of Fr Stephen your servant and priest,
that he, who devoted a faithful ministry to your name,
may rejoice in the perpetual company of your saints.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
May he rest in peace. Amen.