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Archbishop George Stack installed as Archbishop of Cardiff - Special Interview

Archbishop George Stack has been installed as Archbishop of Cardiff on Monday 20 June 2011 at a service in The Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St David.

Below you can read an interview with Archbishop Stack by Jo Siedlecka, Deputy Editor of the Westminster Record.

You can download a copy of Archbishop Stack's Installation Mass homily at the bottom of this page.

Interview with Archbishop George Stack by Jo Siedlecka

Archbishop George Stack was installed as Archbishop of Cardiff on Monday 20 June, at a service in Metropolitan Cathedral Church of St David, which was attended by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishops Peter Smith and many parishioners from his new diocese.  During the service he said several of the Mass parts in Welsh and delivered his homily in both languages – much to the delight of the congregation which applauded loudly.

Archbishop Stack was an Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Westminster from  2001 and was working here up to the last hour. He spoke with Jo Siedlecka shortly before leaving for Cardiff on Friday.

We began by chatting about events where we’d met recently. One was at Bishop George’s last official engagement in London - the 40th anniversary  Mass for parish priest Fr Joe Ryan at St John Vianney’s in West Green. Fr Joe is head of Westminster Justice and Peace and also runs a very lively parish. Bishop George said: “It was a privilege to be there. The church in that area really holds the community together.”

The other time we had met was at the funeral and burial of Paddy Hassett – a character well-known to every cathedral administrator. Bishop George said: “when I think of him I think of the scripture text about the High Priest Melchizidek – ‘where he came from nobody knew.’  He was so happy and totally absorbed in the Eucharist. He loved the Cathedral. We knew nothing about him.”

Bishop George was born in Cork, on 9 Mary 1946. The family moved to Poplar in east London, where his father worked at Ford’s in Dagenham. One of six children, he was an altar boy at the church of St Mary and St Joseph and remembers the parish priest there with great affection. “Canon John Wright was a great inspiration” he said. “He was a convert to Catholicism. He came from Devon originally and had been an engineer. During the war he had been an RAF Chaplain. When he came to Poplar the area had been badly hit by the Blitz and the church had been bombed. He built up the parish again. I remember we were part of the festival of Britain. That’s where I was ordained later. And you know the greatest tribute to him is that as far back as I can remember, every six years, a boy from the parish would go to the seminary.  Harry Turner, Peter Leatham, Keith Stoakes, Perry Sykes – they all came from our parish.”

Bishop George went to primary school with the Sisters of Mercy locally. “They were wonderful people, inspirational, dedicated.”  Then he went to St Aloysius Secondary School  in Highgate (later that day he was going to dedicate a new chapel there).  The school was first run by the Brothers of Mary. Then the De la Salle Brothers took over.

The young George Stack’s fellow pupils  included John Crowley, Malcolm MacMahon and Fr Jim McNicholas.

“We’ve done our bit for vocations” he said. The journey from Poplar to Highgate was a long commute, taking more than two busses, he said. “In those days people put great store by education.”

Bishop George said he comes from a happy family. “My parents died when I was in seminary. That made the six of us very close.  Three years ago my elder sister died. One sister is retired now; one brother is in probation service. My next sister works in the prison service in Suffolk. The youngest is vice principal of an FE College in Kent.”
After ordination, Fr Stack was deacon and then assistant priest at Our Lady & St Joseph, Hanwell. During part of that time he was also chaplain to St Bernard’s Psychiatric Hospital.  “I was there with Joe Ryan” he said “we learned a great  deal.” He was also Chaplain at Cardinal Wiseman School, Greenford.

From 1974 to 1977 Bishop Stack undertook further studies at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill, and gained a Bachelor of Education degree. He then became a member of the Westminster Religious Education Centre.  In 1977, he was appointed assistant priest at St Paul the Apostle, Wood Green,  “I loved every minute of he said. In 1983, he  became parish priest at Our Lady Help of Christians, Kentish Town, which he also has happy memories of.

“In 1990, Cardinal Hume asked me to be Vicar General responsible for clergy.” He said.  “It was a great formative time in my life working with Cardinal Hume. He was holy, non judgemental, compassionate and humble.”

“In 1994 when  Bishop Pat O’Donovan was moved to Lancaster I was asked to became cathedral administrator preparing for the centenary.  What I remember is that Cardinal Hume said “the Cathedral is a church in and with which we worship God. Its not a performance its an engagement.”

During this time Fr George was appointed one of the first Ecumenical Canons at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. He was made a Prelate of Honour, with the title Monsignor, to Pope John Paul II in the year 1993.

Bishop George Stack was ordained an Auxiliary Bishop for the Diocese of Westminster on 12 April 2001.

He was also chairman of the Diocesan Department for Education and Formation and had pastoral responsibility for the Deaneries in Hertfordshire.  “We have a school system in this diocese which is second to none” he said “There are 200 schools striving for excellence. It’s a marvellous education - a holistic one teaching  body, mind, spirit, model, integrity – wholeness. Wholeness which is holiness.”

Bishop George was also Chair of Governors at St Mary’s University College; a Governor at Heythrop College in the University of London and a Member of the Board of St John & St Elizabeth’s Hospital, London.

“Its given me a great overview, he said - from central London, to the North and Hertfordshire. A wonderful experience.”

Bishop George said he was greatly looking forward to his new ministry in Cardff. He said: “I’m attempting to learn a little Welsh. Its very important to learn about culture of the people. In a sense it feels like I have turned full circle as I was born in a Celtic country. And last September Pope Benedict XVI blessed the first representation of St David, Patron Saint of Wales in Westminster Cathedral.

A booklet on the mosaic by Ivor Davis and created by Tessa Hunkin, was given as a souvenir of the installation of Archbishop George Stack, the Seventh Archbishop of Cardiff.

In it he writes: The importance of art, music and words in the Liturgy of the Church was emphasis by Cardinal Hume  when he said: “Only the best is good enough for God. He meant that the raising of the heart and mind to God is sustained and enhanced by the things we sea and hear and touch in our worship.  Through the prayers and example of St David may we all seek to create something beautiful for God in our worship and in the witness of our lives.”