Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Stephen E. Woolley 11/28/1956 - 4/14/2008

When I got home from daily Mass this morning I had two emails with regards to GRANT THEM REST; the first one was concerning the recognition of one of the earlier submissions to this blog, and the second is as follows:
Dear Sir or Madam

Thank you for providing such a wonderful ministry or prayer. May God bless and reward you for your love and care.

Would it be possible to add my late friend, STEPHEN EDWARD WOOLLEY to the list?

His dates are: 28 November 1956 to 14 April 2008.

The following is the words of remembrance read at his funeral:

Panegyric – Stephen Edward Woolley

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. If you seek his memorial, look around you.

While these words famously commemorate Sir Christopher Wren and his greatest work, S Paul’s Cathedral; they do, nonetheless, say something about Stephen and his connection with this building.

In 1996, Stephen was invited by the then administrator, Fr Tony Hughes, to help raise £500,000 for the restoration of this cathedral. As in all things, Stephen undertook the task with great proficiency and enthusiasm. Coordinating the diocese-wide raffle, he convinced Seat to donate a brand new car, as well as a host of other valuable prizes from other donors. Many here today, will remember the great flower and vestment exhibition, which ended with the diocesan family fun day, during which Stephen was awarded the Diocesan Medal by Bishop Crispian. He convinced museums and private owners to lend valuable vestments and first class relics; several celebrities appearing at Chichester responded to his appeal and gave their support to the cathedral; the TV cameras rolled in and opened up the cathedral to the nation. He also brought an ecumenical angle to the celebrations by inviting local churches and neighbouring cathedrals to assist in the decoration of this great church and indeed, many still talk about Winchester Cathedral’s towering flower arrangements, standing either side of the old tabernacle in the apse.

But it wasn’t just to the cathedral that this loyal son of the Church gave his time and effort. He assisted with the production of the diocesan newspaper, ‘Portsmouth People’, and was responsible for its transformation from a black and white to a full colour publication in 1999. For a few years, he also helped in this cathedral’s day centre for the elderly and will be remembered as the one who made the most magnificent home-made lemon meringues and other cakes— a gift which he always claimed from his mother and grandmother.
Stephen was a man, driven by an ethic of hard work, kindness and loyalty. If a cause deserved his attention, then he made time and worked tirelessly for its success. Many here today will have had personal experience of his charitable works, which, even after his untimely death, will continue with his long-term sponsorship of children in Malawi through the charity, World Vision. But Stephen was more than just a kind man. His dedication to this work was apostolic in its foundation: faith, hope and love motivated his daily life and ensured that whatever he did for someone, it was in a spirit of Christian love and not tainted by self-advancement. Stephen’s faith was Easter-focused, as may be seen from the order of service for this Mass, which is based closely on Stephen’s specific instructions and which show clearly that death is swallowed up by the victory of the Resurrection.
Stephen had a great love of music and liturgy. Having started his musical ‘career’ as a chorister at Chester Cathedral under the directorship of Roger Fisher; he continued to sing as a lay clerk at Southwark Cathedral, while at Kings College, where he met one of his musical heroes, Harry Bramah.

In his work-a-day life, Stephen was also highly conscientious and generous. After testing his vocation for the Anglican ministry, he decided to enter the world of retail work, where he soon rose through the ranks, becoming a manager of a national chain of newsagents. Feeling the call again, he returned to university to continue his Theology degree, but once again, decided that the time was not right for him to enter the ministry and so returned to the world of work, becoming an assistant general manager in a company dealing with the new and exciting world of mobile communications. It was amusing to watch public reaction as he carried his heavy work “Transportable” mobile ‘phone around with him. More reminiscent of a military field ‘phone, it filled the mid-1980s observer with astonishment and envy. With modern mobile ‘phones the size of a credit card, it just shows how quickly technology moves on. Headhunted by Ferranti in 1988, he became operations manager of the newly formed Ferranti Creditfone, which was to become Rabbit and then Orange. In 1989, Stephen received instruction from his long-term friend, Fr Denis McSweeny and was subsequently received into the Catholic Church at Our Lady of Lourdes in Milton Keynes.

Having decided to follow the self-employment path, Stephen founded a pilgrimage tour company, which, while small in size, became respected for the bespoke nature of its itineraries. During the Holy Year of S James in 1993, only Stephen’s pilgrims made it into the cathedral for the closing Mass, while all the big British companies’ pilgrims had to make do with large TV screens outside. Similarly, when Prinknash Abbey wanted to arrange a Benedictine Pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, it was to Stephen they turned and he arranged a pilgrimage for over ninety pilgrims.

Following his move to the south coast, Stephen worked a while for Stagecoach and then, with other investors, purchased the Sandringham Hotel on Southsea seafront. His last move was to be in March 2006, when, together with a friend, he bought the Fernbank Hotel in Shanklin. With an open door policy to his many friends, he welcomed them to what was his favourite enterprise. Many here will remember his fiftieth birthday party in 2006 and also last year’s Christmas party for friends. It is with regret, that he had so little time to enjoy the Fernbank; but in the short time that it was his, he turned a once failing business around and gained great respect from guests and colleagues alike.

The cathedral referred to is S John's Cathedral in Portsmouth, UK. Attached is a picture of Stephen with the then Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Elaine Baker.

Thank you again for this.

God bless

Philip Andrews

Dona eis requiem.

No comments: