GERARD TICKLE enjoyed a dual success in his life: as Rector of a centuries-old college for the training of priests in Rome, and as Roman Catholic Bishop to the Forces.
The apogee of Tickle's career must have been when he was appointed to the Staff of the English College. Those who chose him knew what they were doing. The Venerable English College, in 1946, had only just returned from Stonyhurst in Lancashire where it had made its home during the Second World War. The ancient building, dating from the 15th century, was in need of repair and refurbishment. Links, both social and academic, needed to be remade locally and with the dioceses in England. A new life was beginning and administration needed to be updated. While these needs clamoured for attention, the revered Mgr John Macmillan was in failing health.
Thus Tickle, as the new young Vice-Rector, came into his own. The very qualities needed were those which he possessed. House management, including electric wiring, plumbing and artistic decoration, was among his many skills - he even created Classical ceilings with the skilful use of jelly moulds. The students learnt their trades from him, and were loaned out to various embassies in Rome faced with similar problems. Tickle welcomed guests warmly, and not with just a handshake. He understood all about food and wine, and was himself an expert chef. Never had the Venerabile witnessed such a superb display of personal relations. He enlarged the reputation for hospitality which the English College had long enjoyed.
Tickle took over as Rector at a difficult period when matters were being openly discussed which were later to find acceptance - or rejection - in the forthcoming Second Vatican Council. His rock- like faith gave reassurance to the traditionalists - and curbed the exuberance of the ultra-radicals. Those who studied under him in those years, including Bishop Christopher Budd (Plymouth), and Bishop John Brewer (Lancaster) speak of his imperturbability and lovable nature. He is remembered as one who made friends easily - and never enemies.
His transition from the unity of college life to the diversity of life in the Services could have proved unsettling to one who was most at home with the familiar, but Tickle's courtesy and humanity set him above divisions, and he made friends for himself and the faith he so proudly professed. His first tour of the Far East, made shortly after his appointment as Forces' Bishop, set the tone for all subsequent tours and visits. He was equally at home with the three Services, as also with those of Australia and New Zealand. He kept to a full schedule despite tropical heat and humidity and the normal fatigue of long-distance travel.
When he had completed his time as Bishop to the Forces he took his retirement and returned to his family and friends in his own diocese of Shrewsbury. He never had a word of complaint - only of appreciation.
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