Monday, 23 August 2010

Bishop Mervyn Alexander RIP

Right Reverend Mervyn Alban Alexander DD LLD (Hon), the eighth Bishop of Clifton, died on 14 August 2010 at St Angela’s Home in Clifton, Bristol. Bishop Declan Lang, the current Bishop of Clifton will celebrate Bishop Mervyn’s Requiem Mass on Tuesday 24 August at 11.30 am. This will be followed by burial in the Cathedral grounds. The Cathedral will be open from 10.00 am. Please arrive early to ensure a seat.

Mervyn Alban Alexander was born on 29 June 1925 in Highbury, London, the eldest son of William and Grace Alexander. The family moved from London to Salisbury, Wiltshire, when he was one year old.

He began his schooling at the Bishop Wordsworth Grammar School in Salisbury and later went to Prior Park College, Bath. He trained for the priesthood at the Venerable English College, Rome and was ordained priest on 18 July 1948 in the Leonine College, Rome. He continued his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, and obtained his doctorate in divinity in 1951.

Returning to England he was appointed assistant priest in the Cathedral parish, Clifton, Bristol, where he served from 1951 to l964. He acted as Chaplain to the Bristol Maternity and Homeopathic Hospitals. He also became part-time Chaplain to the University of Bristol in 1953 and was appointed full-time Chaplain in 1964. During this time he opened the University Catholic Chaplaincy on Queens Road as a study and residential centre for students. The Chaplaincy continues to serve students today.

In 1967 he was appointed as Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Weston-super-Mare, until he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop in the Clifton Diocese on 25 April 1972. On 20 December 1974, he was made Bishop of Clifton.

In addition to his work in the diocese he held a number of national posts. He was a member of the Vatican Secretariat for Non-Believers (1973 to 1983), and Chairman of the National Commission for Non-Believers (1973 to 1983), Vice-Chairman of the Liturgy Commission (1977 to 1983), and Episcopal President of the Catholic Child Welfare Council (1976 to 1983). His interest in ecumenism was reflected in his role as Co-Chairman of the Roman Catholic / Methodist Committee (1976 to 1980), and his appointment as Co-Chairman of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1977. In 1982 he was Chairman of the committee concerned with spiritual preparation for the visit of Pope John Paul II to England and Wales. He was Chairman of the Committee for Art and Architecture (1983 to 1999), as well as Episcopal Adviser to Marriage Encounter from 1980. He presided at a Diocesan Synod which took place from 1987 to 1988.

In February 2001 Bishop Mervyn was recognised by the University of Bristol for his contribution to the life of the city and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws. The commendation speech was given by the then Bishop of Bristol Right Reverend Barry Rogerson.

He was succeeded as Bishop of Clifton by Bishop Declan Lang on the 28 March 2001. On his retirement as Bishop he returned to Weston-super-Mare, as Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, a role he fulfilled until 2008. He then moved to live at St Angela’s Convent in Clifton, Bristol.

The Bishop of Clifton, the Rt Rev Declan Lang, paid this tribute to Bishop Mervyn Alexander:

“I would like to pay tribute to a good and holy man who welcomed me with friendship when I was appointed as his successor. At the heart of Bishop Mervyn’s ministry was the model of the Good Shepherd who both knew and lay down his life for those he was called to serve.

“In his years as Bishop of Clifton, Bishop Mervyn guided the diocese through many changes and developments which originated from the Second Vatican Council. There were joys and tensions but in all of this Bishop Mervyn remained a loving pastor who had a deep love for God and people. He was intellectually gifted but was very unassuming about this. He also had a great sense of humour which helped everyone put things into perspective. That humour was appreciated by his fellow bishops who regarded him with great respect and affection.

“When he retired as bishop of the diocese, Bishop Mervyn asked to take care of St Joseph’s, Weston-super-Mare. He was able to be what he had always wanted to be - a parish priest who was a good pastor. Our diocese owes Bishop Mervyn a depth of gratitude for his time as bishop. May he come to his fullness of life in God.”

May he rest in peace

Photo: Clifton Diocese

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