Obituary: The Right Rev Owen Swindlehurst

Owen Swindlehurst was Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle for over 18 years, and also Bishop of Chester-le-Street, with pastoral responsibility for most of the area between Tyne and Tees.

He was born in 1928 at Newburn, then in Northumberland. A youthful conviction that he was called to priesthood led to junior seminary at Ushaw College, near Durham; and his outstanding talent ensured a place at the Venerable English College in Rome in 1948 to read philosophy and theology. After ordination into the priesthood by Cardinal Traglia in 1954, at Rome, he followed a postgraduate course for a Doctorate in Canon Law; probably his shyness made him avoid publishing a thesis he had publicly defended in Latin and so he technically also avoided the doctorate award.

Italy draws many away from England; Owen Swindlehurst's 10 years there gave him a great love for the country and for the city of Rome, but left intact his lifelong loves of north-east England, and an even deeper love of his solid Catholic faith.

He returned to England in 1958 and successfully combined parish work, in Ponteland and later Newcastle, with diocesan work, mainly as a personal secretary to the Bishop for 10 years, then more in the specialised canon law of marriage. He always balanced accurate legal knowledge with pastoral sensitivity. This was recognised by his fellow priests who regularly chose him to represent them at diocesan and national levels.

After becoming parish priest at Holy Name, Jesmond, Newcastle, in 1971, he led the parish into the developments of the Second Vatican Council. In particular, his understanding introduction of celebrating Mass completely in English helped those who felt sad at the loss of Latin; it has proved a sound preparation for today's high standard of parish celebration with singing. He founded a consultative parish council which was instrumental in his commissioning of a compact parish centre. Also, his friendship with local Anglican, Methodist and United Reformed Church clergy started a custom of joint weekly prayer in Holy Name church.

Appointed Auxiliary Bishop in 1977 and given pastoral care of most Catholics between Tyne and Wear, he was regularly seen in Catholic parishes and schools but also worked with the other churches: the Anglican/ Roman Catholic St John and St Patrick's joint church school in Sunderland was established in his time. His fellow bishops often used his expert knowledge in pro- life issues, not least in the Joint Bio-Ethical Committee shared with the bishops of Scotland and Ireland.

Working with him was a joy, especially for his good judgement and keen sense of humour. Once, after I had spoken in English the traditionally wordy thanks to a high Vatican official who had greatly helped us, I saw the twinkle in his eye as he translated it into the impossibly brief and formal, "His Excellency is grateful" ("Sua Eccellenza e molto contento").

While he was still fit for long walks and strenuous squash, lung cancer took away first his voice then the fitness. In his last press interview, he spoke much less about his illness and more of his love of Italy, Rome and the Church. His devotion to Newcastle United lasted to the end.

; Hugh Lindsay

Owen Francis Swindlehurst, priest: born Newburn, Northumberland 10 May 1928; Assistant Priest, St Matthew's, Ponteland 1959-67; Assistant Priest, St Bede's, Denton Burn, Newcastle 1967-72; Parish Priest, Holy Name, Jesmond, Newcastle 1967-77; Roman Catholic Bishop Auxiliary of Hexham and Newcastle 1977-95; Titular Bishop of Chester-le-Street 1977-95; died Sunderland 28 August 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave