Sister Mary David Totah OSB

Sister Mary David Totah OSB Sister Mary David was born on March 26, 1957. She died of cancer on August 28, 2017, aged 60.
Obituary from the “Times” of 16th September 2017


Sister was one of the first female scholars to enter Christ Church when the Oxford college opened its doors to women students in 1980. In August 1984, after doctoral supervision, she decided to go on a retreat to St Cecilia’s Abbey, a Benedictine community on the Isle of Wight.


The enclosed Benedictines there normally left the abbey only for medical emergencies. “I was drawn to it like a magnet,” she said of the soaring Gregorian chant and community life at the abbey. Friends, noting the sparkle in her eyes when she returned to the US after the retreat, asked her if she had just got engaged. Nine months later she left a post teaching literature at America’s second-oldest university, the College of William & Mary, Virginia, and returned to England to join the nuns. Flying into Heathrow in May 1985 she was asked at passport control: “How long do you plan to remain in England?” “For ever, I hope,” she replied, only to be ushered into a group of suspected illegal passengers. “I said for ever,” she later explained, “not because I thought it would all work out, but because love is like that.”



Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB

1946 – 2017


A Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated at Quarr on Monday 30th January for the eternal repose of the soul of Abbot Cuthbert Johnson (abbot of Quarr from 1996 to 2008) who died peacefully on 16th January, aged 70, in Holy Cross Care Home, at Sunderland, where he had been admitted after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.


His Funeral Mass was offered at St. Aloysius Church, Hebburn, Northumberland, followed by the burial at Hebburn cemetery, according to the wishes of Abbot Cuthbert and his family.


The Solemn Requiem at Quarr Abbey was attended by Abbot Xavier, Abbot Cuthbert Brogan of Farnborough Abbey and Abbot Finbar Kealy, (former Abbot of Douai and Prior – Administrator of Quarr), together with twelve priests.


In his homily, Abbot Xavier told the congregation that, when visiting Abbot Cuthbert recently, he found him at peace both with God and with himself. It was providential in many ways that this Solemn Requiem was on the anniversary of the death of Dom Prosper Gueranger, the first Abbot of Solesmes, who died on this day in 1875. Abbot Cuthbert was greatly inspired by Dom Prosper, ever since he completed his doctrinal thesis on him as a young monk. It was this that inspired his love and interest in liturgy and worship.



Fr. David Buckley R.I.P.

1947 – 2012
Obituary by the Isle of Wight Catholic History Society


Parishioners will be sorry to hear of the death of Fr. David Buckley, (Parish Priest of Ryde 1995 – 2002), Father died on the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux following a recent heart attack. Requiescat in pace.


Fr. Buckley was ordained to the Holy Priesthood at St. John’s Cathedral, Portsmouth on 7th June 1975; together with Fr. Declan Lang, a native of the Isle of Wight and now Bishop of Clifton and Patron of the Island Catholic History Society. Members and supporters of that society have much for which to be thankful to Fr. Buckley, as it was he, who, as Dean of the Island, inaugurated the CHS, almost exactly 13 years ago.


Father’s first ministry was a a curate at St. James’, Reading, followed by St. Mary’s, Alton, and Sacred Heart, Bournemouth. After a short spell as Parish Priest of Twyford, he served for eleven years as Parish Priest of the Immaculate Conception Church, Sandhurst, before being appointed to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Ryde in September 1995, replacing Fr. John Dunne, who left Ryde for Southbourne. Like Fr. Dunne, he declared himself “over the moon” on coming to Ryde. “I had believed that Ryde”, he said, “with its great history and tradition, would have been reserved for someone more important than I am in the Diocese. I am very pleased to be here and I look forward to my ministry among you”.



Gloria Minghella

1930 – 2014


The much-loved, well-known and highly respected Islander, Gloria Minghella, passed away at the Mountbatten Hospice on 27th March, 2014, having been fortified by the Last Rites of Holy Mother by Fr. Anthony Glaysher, parish priest of St. Mary’s Church, Ryde.


Gloria and Eddie married at St. Mary’s on the Feast of St. Francis, 1950. Since then they have been stalwart parishioners, giving welcome support to all the priests of the parish. Best known among their five children was the late Anthony Minghella, the film director and oscar winner. The gallery and former convent chapel at St. Mary’s was dedicated in memory of Anthony by Bishop Egan of Portsmouth last year.


Both Gloria and Eddie were pillars, not only of the Catholic community, but the Isle of Wight in general, as councillors, charity workers and community leaders. She was also a former Isle of Wight Deputy Lord Lieutenant. Both Gloria and Eddie founded the, now famous, Minghella Ice Cream. Gloria was often affectionately referred to as the ‘Queen Mother of the Isle of Wight’. Her love for the Island shone through to everyone she met.



Joan Sherry R.I.P.


We regret to announce the death of Joan Sherry, one of the founder members of our Catholic History Society. Joan was a talented lady, a committed Catholic and an enthusiastic member of our society. She came to the Island to live at Brading in 1956 and was a prominent member of St. Patrick’s Parish in Sandown, where she formed Children’s choir to sing at Masses. Music and singing were Joan’s life. He was a talented opera, jazz and classical musician, with a keen interest also in church music. She wrote a book: “Dancing with the Lord”.


At the Funeral Mass at St. Patrick’s on 3rd March, Fr. P.J. Smith reminded the congregation that Joan had “a deep faith. She brought much joy to parishioners through her desire to celebrate and to share her faith”.


Concelebrating the Requiem Mass were Fr. Brian Coogan and two former parish priests of Sandown, – Fr. Claro and Fr. Tibor.



Fr. John Edwards S.J. 1929 – 2012

Fr. Edwards was a well known Jesuit priest who died in December at the age of 83. The best description that I have heard about him is that he had “a zeal for souls”. He did all that he could to bring back lost souls to God and His Holy Church by inspired preaching and through the promotion of the Sacraments; in particular, the Sacrament of Confession.


Fr. John was born at Bexhill-on-Sea on 2nd June 1929, and was educated at Ampleforth and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. He served in the Royal Navy from 1946, serving for a time in the Korean War and achieving the rank of Lieutenant until he left in 1953 and was adtiited to the Society of Jesus in 1954. He was ordained a priest in 1964, and joined the Jesuit Mission team, spending almost the whole of his priesthood preaching Missions in parishes up and down the country, as well as retreats to religious and seminarians. He also wrote some books, the most popular being “Ways of Praying”, and just republished by Gracewing two days after his death.


Some older parishioners will remember the Mission at St. Mary’s, Ryde that he preached in 1990, and more recently the Mission which he gave in the Spring of 2009



Fr. Henry Donnelly R.I.P.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Henry Donnelly, a priest of the Portsmouth Diocese, who died in Jersey on 10th August, 2010 at the age of 101. Father was the eldest priest in the Diocese. Ordained to the Holy Priesthood at the cathedral in 1936 by Bishop Cotter, he was for a short time curate at Newport, then at St. Joseph’s, Aldershot. During the war he served as an army chaplain in France and was mentioned in despatches for his bravery during the Dunkirk evacuation. He was then sent to North Africa and then on to Malta. After the war he was sent to St. William of York, Reading as parish priest. After twenty years, he was sent to Shanklin, where he remained until his retirement in 1985. He returned a few years later to serve as chaplain to the Sisters of Mercy at St. Anthony’s Convent.


Fr. Donnelly had a close association with Quarr Abbey and he was a member of our Catholic History Society. In fact he was most regular in paying his subscriptions. He gave considerable help and support to our society in its early days.



Fr. Hugh Thwaites

The well known Jesusit priest, Fr. Hugh Thwaites died on 21st August. He converted to the Catholic faith as a result of his experience as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. He never bore resentment for his treatment, reasoning that the Japanese guards did not have the benefit of the Christian faith. His approach to evangelisation was direct and simple because he understood the truth and beauty of the Christian faith and wished others to benefit from it.


Father Thwaites always spoke in a kindly and gentle manner while firing off spiritual advice that could blow you off your feet; he was a priest who made many converts almost instantly by his sincerity and holiness, and converted countless lukewarm Catholics to a deeper following of Christ. He was passionately devoted to the Rosary, loved the Old Latin Mass, and remained faithful to the traditional Jesuit daily spiritual exercises


Father Hugh Thwaites was one of those giant figures who had laboured zealously in the service of the church amidst the great storm in which he found himself. He had a great love for his flock; seeing the good in everyone. He promoted the family rosary and the name of our blessed Mother was forever on his lips.



Fr. John Dunne, Parish Priest of Ryde 1989-95, R.I.P.

The death has occurred of Fr. John Dunne. Father died at Kiln Green Convent, near Reading, where he had been staying since his retirement last year as parish priest of Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church, Southbourne.


Fr. Dunne came to St. Mary’s, Ryde in April 1989 with an instruction “to restore the church” after it had endured several poorly executed re-ordering projects in the wake of Vatican II. Within five years he had restored the interior of the church to its original Victorian beauty (in so far as the liturgical changes of Vatican II would permit). The Lady Chapel had been re-painted and the Countess of Clare’s Chapel was restored as a place of prayer and devotion.


The parish hall consisted of several classrooms and was unsuitable as a parish centre. Fr. Dunne had the interior walls demolished to make one large hall. All this work was not in place of the spiritual development of the parish. He made it clear that parishioners’ spiritual nourishment was his first priority, and to this end, he arranged a Mission soon after his arrival. It was only a few days ago that the parish received a letter from Fr. Dunne accepting an invitation to the Requiem Mass to mark the centenary of the death of Bishop Cahill (a former parish priest of Ryde). Fr. Dunne loved his priesthood. He was a kind, humble and gentle man. He always had time for people. No one ever spoke unkindly about him. He had great respect from his parishioners and was held in high esteem by everyone.



A Tribute to Elizabeth Foley

Your charitable prayers are requested for the eternal repose of the soul of Beth Foley, a prominent supporter of the Latin Mass Society, who died on the Feast of the Annunciation 2010. In seems most appropriate that Beth should depart this life on a feast day of Our Blessed Lady, as she had a great devotion to Christ’s mother. She loved St. Mary’s and did all she could to increase devotion to Our Lady. This included sponsorship of “Our Lady’s Light” with the large candle burning at the statue of Mary at the church door. For over twenty years she and her husband Peter, welcomed people into their house every Tuesday afternoon for the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and other devotions. We have all benefited from Peter and Beth’s prayers. Beth was a founder member of the IoW Catholic History Society, a member of the Faith Study Group and a flower arranger at St. Mary’s. She had a close association with St. Cecilia’s Abbey. One of the nuns, Sister Bede, had been a friend since their days at Surrey Art School. In 1953 she was a bridesmaid at Beth and Peter’s wedding on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Beth lived her life for the Faith. She had a great concern for the future of the Church and in particular for Catholic education and the passing on of the One True Faith to future generations. She had a great devotion to Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and she would be frequently observed in prayer and meditation at Exposition especially at the First Friday Holy Hour. She believed that the most efficacious prayer is that in the Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament which releases the power, blessings and graces of Almighty God. She would have delighted in being present at the recent 40 Hours Exposition; both in quiet meditation and in joining others making a fervent act of love to Jesus exposed on the altar for all to see.



Lydia Jackson, R.I.P.

Members of the IoW Catholic History Society were all saddened by the news of the death of Lydia Jackson in June 2009. Lydia bought a property in Ryde five years ago. Conveniently for her, it was almost equal distance from the St. Mary’s Church, St. Cecilia’s Abbey and the ferry across the Solent to Portsmouth. She grew to love the Island as there was ample opportunity for walking and sailing; activities which she enjoyed immensely. On several occasions she took part in the Paris/Chartres walk held annually in May. She remarked on various occasions how she considered life to be a pilgrimage, with heaven as the final destination. In fact there were not many Catholic shrines in she had not visited at some time. She was always keen to promote the story or the history of each place. Several of us went with Lydia on her final pilgrimage, or rather retreat, given by Father John Edwards, S.J., in Llantarnum Abbey, near Newport in Wales, last November.


Lydia made many friends among the Catholics of Ryde and she was a dedicated member of the Island Catholic History Society and the Faith Study Group. Both groups benefited from her vast knowledge of the Faith and church history. For almost a year she led a discussion group on the history and the development of the Mass. She gave several talks to the Catholic History Society and she helped to arrange a successful three-day visit to Ryde by the English Catholic History Association, during which she gave another talk on the “Signs and Symbols” in the Christian Church. On several occasions she assisted with guided tours of St. Mary’s; showing how quickly she could learn and recall details of St. Mary’s history.



Fr. Peter de Curzon OSB (1924 – 2006)

The death of Fr. Peter de Curzon OSB is sad news for all those who knew and loved this devout, sincere man and holy priest. A Benedictine monk at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, Father remained faithful to the Old Rite Mass until the end. LMS supporters on the Island had great consolation in the knowledge that the Tridentine Mass was offered daily here on the Island, although it was not available to the public. Nevertheless, Fr. de Curzon often remembered us in his prayers and at Holy Mass which he said early in the morning in the abbey crypt. When one of our members / supporters died, Father always offer a Requiem Mass for the repose of their soul.


Father Peter de Curzon was born on the Feast of the Transfiguration 1924 and as a young man he served in the French Resisitance movement during the Second World War. He came to Quarr in 1945 and was professed as a monk on 19th August (Feast of St. John Eudes) 1946. He was ordained to the Subdiaconate (with Dom Paul Ziegler) by Bishop Beck of Brentwood in August 1949. Two years later he was ordained to the Holy Priesthood on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul by Archbishop John Henry King. He was presented to the Lord Abbot of Quarr, Dom G. Tissot OSB and the monks and the congregation sang “Veni Creator” after the bishop, abbot and priests laid their hands upon him and he was presented with his chalice and paten. His first Mass was offered the following morning at the little side-altar (now removed) in the public part of the chapel. Father Peter was immensely proud of his ancestry. St. Louis IX and St. Margaret of Scotland were both direct ancestors. He was widely read and he was a real expert on “Medieval fortifications”. Two parishioners of Ryde who knew Father for many years are Grace Burke and Yvonne Rampton. Grace knew Fr. Peter for 58 years. She remembers “a kind and lovely priest; such a good and unassuming man“. Similarly, Yvonne who knew Father for over 50 years regarded him as “a sincere and honest man; a holy and devout priest who loved his priesthood and his monastic way of life“. In recent years he would be found at Quarr manning the porter’s lodge and it was here that many people would take a de-tour to spend a few moments in the company of this saintly priest.



The Right Rev. Mother Bernadette Smeyers. 1903 – 2005. R.I.P.

The Right Reverend Mother Bernadette Smeyers, who has died aged 102, was, as Abbess of St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight.


The fifth of a Belgian civil servant’s eight children, she was born Marie-Madeleine Elise Eugenie Smeyers at Louvain on August 5 1903. She was educated by the Paridaen sisters at Louvain until the family followed the Belgian Government into exile after the outbreak of the First World War. She was next sent to St Mary’s Abbey, Mill Hill, in London, then became a boarder at the Benedictine community of Pax Cordis Jesu, which gave up its school at Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, and transferred to St Cecilia’s.


Marie-Madeleine could recall the great Solesmes plainchant authority Dom Mocquereau giving lessons in a faster chant to the community and girls, and she remembered being told to try again when she got wrong the Terce for Pentecost. After a period at home she followed her elder sister, Alice, into the community aged 23. As Sister Bernadette, she taught philosophy, served in the sacristy and the refectory, worked on the poultry farm and became an excellent calligrapher. After seven years she was made prioress, and became secretary to both the chapter and Abbess Ambrosia Cousin, whom she succeeded in 1953. During her 34 years as St Cecilia’s second abbess, the community was particularly lively, with much laughter in the parlour and conversation conducted in a mixture of English, Irish and French accents. Mother Bernadette threw herself into everything, ensuring that St Cecilia’s avoided many of the traumas experienced by other monastic foundations in the aftermath of the Vatican Council. Her twice-weekly conferences for the community were practical and unsentimental. Always ready to listen and to take the initiative, she showed a prudent interest in the making of altar bread, bookbinding and art work; she also introduced courses in Greek and Hebrew. She also presided over the redesigning and reordering of the abbey church, the introduction of vernacular readings and the abolition of dress distinctions between lay sisters and choir nuns. But she never wavered in the conviction that the Latin chant should be retained. In response to the repeated requests by conciliar documents, and to Pope Paul’s issue to bishops of a booklet of simple chants for parish use throughout the Church, she increased the singing of chant at the Divine Office and at Mass. This led her to arrange for a weekly practice for the congregation with two nuns, as well as the launch of the community on its recording career.



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