Today is the 4th anniversary of a dear friend and priest of our diocese, Canon Charles Walker. He lived a long and fruitful life. He was born a Bermondsey boy in 1924 who grew up a practising Anglican and was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1955. In March 1966 he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome after his studies at the Beda College.
Charles was involved with the Young Christian Workers being National Chaplain for seven years from 1973 till 1980. He realised the importance of young people seeing the link between their working lives and the Gospel. In 1994 he wrote a book “Worker Apostles”. When I was working for the diocese in catechetics he very kindly allowed me to live in his home “John Archer House” when he was chaplain to the Afro-Caribbean community in South London.
While working as an assistant priest in Brixton Hill he became involved with many Caribbean families and worked with the Caribbean community over a number of years. As Caribbean chaplain for Southward diocese he made several visits to the Caribbean to educate himself. Being a keen journalist he started a monthly newsletter, Caribbean Catholic, which went for 12 years. Some of you remember the protests in Brixton between 10th and 12th April 1981 that became known as the Brixton riots. This resulted in the the Scarman report. From this report arouse the Community/Police Consultative group for Lambeth and Canon Charles was elected chairman.
Charles wrote another book “Some of us are Black” about his work with the Caribbean community. After a sabbatical, he was appointed Parish priest of St Vincent de Paul’s in Altenburg Gardens near Clapham Junction in 1994. Because of ill health he retired to Rye in 1999, while celebrated Mass every Sunday morning at the Church of St Theres’a in Northiam.
For many years I would see Charles regularly for the sacrament of reconciliation (Confession). Charles de Foucauld and the the Jesus Caritas fraternity of priest were important parts of both our lives. As Charles wrote in his Autobiography “Earthen Vessels The Story of a reluctant Priest” as Brother Charles reflected and lives Jesus’ hidden life of Nazareth, his insight encourages us realise the importance of ordinary things of daily life. In addition there is a call to be delegates of prayer for all neighbours in the Gospel sense. Fr Tony Philpot in his forward to Charles book says.
“Jesus Caritas was more than a support group for clergy. It was really a pattern for living the gospel -or trying to do so- taking as an example the eccentric but saintly Charles de Foucauld. It involves a closeness to the poorest people in society, it involves a willingness to pray contemplatively, it involves an anti-careerist mentality and the promotion of brotherhood and mutual encouragement among priests.”
In many ways that sums up Charles Walker. He is buried in the little cemetery surrounding St Theresa’s in Northiam.
I thank God that Charles was a part of my life and an inspiration and encouragement to me.