Remembering Fr. Owen Hardwicke R.I.P.

On 7th January 2019 Cardiff born Fr. Owen Hardwicke was called home to the Lord. A remarkable priest, tribute was paid to him recently in the Catholic Herald with the following obituary:

Fr John Owen Hardwicke, a promi­nent peace campaigner, author and worker for social justice as well as a popular parish priest in his native Wales, has died at the age of 94.

Born in Cardiff on the 16th June 1924, the second son of Charles & Mary and brother to Glyn, he was baptised into the Church ofWales at Llandaff Cathedral and educated at Marlborough College. Following one term studying at the new College Ox­ford, war broke out and Fr Owen reg­istered as a conscientious objector to military service. He served with the ambulance unit for relief and refugee work in Western Europe.

Fr Owen was received into full com­munion with the Catholic Church while serving in Germany and at the end of the war, returned to Oxford to complete his studies. Following this, he was accepted as student for priest­hood by Bishop Petit of Menevia, and studied at Beda College, Rome, until his ordination at St Mary of the Angels, Canton, Cardiff, on 25th April 1954

Between 1954 – 1957, Fr Owen be­came the Bishop’s secretary while also serving as parish priest of Ruabon before moving into Bryn Hall out of which he carved the Church of St Michael & All Angels and established a diocesan youth centre – the Brynfield Youth Club.

With the consent of the Bishop of Menvia, in 1969 he moved to Southampton to be warden of a hostel for the Society of St Dismas which is a voluntary organisation involved in the rehabilitation of young offenders. Bewteen 1970-71 he was a probation officer in Slough before returning to the University Chaplaincy in Cardiff, gaining his CQSW in social work.

In September 1972 Fr Owen created The Lift Project in Wrexham which sought to help young people aged 16- 25 facing crisis. During this time he lectured in social work at the North East Wales Institute (Cartrefle College). By the end of the decade the Lift Proj­ect had become the many facetted Wrecsam Concern Trust and was to incorporate the Peace Studies Centre, which grew into the Justice & Peace Centre, Kings Mill Road, Hightown.

During the 1980s, Fr Owen became the secretary of CND Cymru and ever more involved in the peace movement, active with the European Nuclear Dis­armament Campaign, the World Dis­armament Campaign, and a member of Christian Approaches to Defence and Disarmament (CCADD). As British Pax Christi’s disarmament co­ordinator Fr Owen gave talks all over the country and was well known in­ternationally through Pax Christi’s Disarmament Commission, where his expertise in disarmament and East­West issues was greatly valued. He­was appointed General Secretary of Pax Christi, 1985-1987.

In 1988 Fr Owen returned to dioce­san ministry as Parish Priest of Llay & Rossett. In 1996 he was moved as temporary priest in charge of Welsh­pool preceding retirement at the end of that year.

His peace work continued beyond retirement with Pax Christi and through his many articles and books. These included The Gospel and Social Justice (1989), Living Beyond Conform­ity (2001) and In Pursuit of Alternatives to War: Peace Campaigning in the Eighties – a Chronicle from Wrexham, in 2006. This book was drawn from his informative and widely-circulated ‘Comments and Quotes’ the bi-month­ly collection of articles and cartoons he put together for many years. In 2008 he returned to his roots in Llandaff, Cardiff to continue supply work at St Mary’s Canton, Sts Francis & Clare, Ely and at HMP Cardiff before returning to the Wrexham area in 2014 where he lived quietly. His health del­cined late last year and Fr Owen was admitted to Wrexham Maelor Hospital where he died peacefully in his sleep on the 7th January 2019. Rest in Peace.

Back in May 2014 Fr. Owen celebrated his Diamond Jubilee of Ordination at St. Mary of the Angels, Cardiff.  A link to the original article of that celebration an be found here.