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Tributes paid to 'funny, kind, and caring' Cardiff priest Father Christopher Delaney

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Tributes paid to 'funny, kind, and caring' Cardiff priest Father Christopher Delaney

Tributes have been paid to a much-loved priest who served Cardiff for over four decades. Father Christopher Delaney was a priest in Cardiff for 43 years before he was recalled to Buckfast Abbey in Devon in 2011. He passed away on May 8, 2022 at the age of 89, just a few months short of celebrating his 90th birthday.

Known affectionately as 'Dil' or 'Father Dil,' Father Delaney was previously resident in St Mary of the Angels Church in Canton, Cardiff, and served as a school chaplain at both Bishop Hannon High School and Mary Immaculate High School. A much-loved figure in the Cardiff community, Father Delaney became an "icon" in the Canton area, most recognisable by his bicycle with his mascot teddy bear on the front.

Born on September 26, 1932 in Bristol, Father Delaney had three sisters. He would have celebrated his 90th birthday this year. Originally made a monk at Buckfast in Devon in 1950, Father Delaney practiced in Cardiff for 43 years before being recalled to Buckfast Abbey in 2011. He later returned to Nazareth House in Cardiff. He was a member of the Benedictine Order and, before coming to Cardiff, had worked in Liverpool during the 1960s.

Father Delaney was well known throughout the Cardiff community and even baptised Charlotte Church, holding her parents among his the friends he made while pastoring in Canton. In the early 1970s, he regenerated the soup run in Cardiff, which provided food for the homeless. A keen cyclist, he also took several school parties on cycling holidays to Lourdes and Switzerland and cycled from Lands End to John O'Groats himself three times.

Candice Jones, 43, was a pupil at Mary Immaculate High School between 1990 and 1995, where she first met Father Delaney who was a school chaplain there. She says he became a father-figure to her. "He's been there [ever] since, through my pregnancy, through my children being born, everything since I was in high school," she said. "I love him very much, it's been a real privilege."

Father Delaney practised in Cardiff for 43 years before being recalled to Buckfast Abbey in 2011

Candice Jones Father Delaney practised in Cardiff for 43 years before being recalled to Buckfast Abbey in 2011

She continued: "I think everyone's best memory or recognisable feature, is him riding around on his bike with a teddy on the back. He even used to ride up to the school where we were and there was a gigantic hill and every morning you would walk past him cycling up the hill."

"He really was an icon," Candice added. "We used to just be accosted down Cowbridge Road. We used to take about half an hour to get where we wanted to go because everybody just loved him."

Candice added that Father Delaney loved cooking and would often cook with her. She said that he remained a close friend throughout her life and described him as her "rock." She recalled that pupils would frequently go into his chaplain's room at Mary Immaculate High School during their lunch hour to chat to him.

You could say anything to him - he wouldn't judge you. He was the most down-to-earth person you could ever meet. He was so funny, caring, kind. He was a lot of fun. He loved going on trips - he'd go to Switzerland every year in the holidays."

Candice said that Father Delaney had kept memoirs which detailed some of his fondest memories, including taking a boomerang outside at Mary Immaculate School. After one of the boys had asked to have a go and it didn't return, Father Delaney had gone to pick it up but "to [his] horror" it bounced back and knocked out four of his bottom teeth.

Father Christopher Delaney as a young priest

Candice Jones Father Christopher Delaney as a young priest

"He was definitely a local celebrity but he couldn’t understand why he was so popular and so revered. He was very humble. He loved the sun and would sit for ages in the garden in Nazareth House if the sun was out, he loved his cycling so much too," she added. Candice said that one of Father Delaney's highlights was appearing on the Antiques Roadshow alongside Fiona Bruce. She added that he enjoyed a glass of Buckfast wine every day, which he said kept him going.

"I wouldn't be here without him," Candice added. "That's something I have always been grateful for. He has touched so many people. So many people said 'You kept me going,' 'You got me through the hardest situation.' I am going to really, really miss him."

Angie Minoli is part of the music group at St Mary of the Angels and says that the group is the successor of a folk group that Father Delaney had set up within the church during the 1970s and that musician Pino Palladino was a former member of the group. She added that Father Delaney had come to Cardiff from Buckfast Abbey as he had expressed a desire for the laity to be more involved in the church and was sent to the city to become part of a parish.

Father Delaney appearing on the Antiques Roadshow

 Candice Jones Father Delaney appearing on the Antiques Roadshow

"He could see what needed doing and he did it," Angie said of Father Delaney, describing him as an "amazing, amazing guy." She added: "He listened to everybody, he was non-judgemental, he gave good advice," saying that people "sat up to listen to him" whenever he gave a homily at mass. "His appeal transcended the Catholic Church. It went beyond that - everyone in Cardiff loved him," Angie added.

"He was the sort of person that if, if anybody wanted anything in a practical sense [...] people would knock the door and ask Father Del, 'Can you help me get a fridge?' or 'Can you help me get a washing machine?' and Father Del would just do it. He helped people in a practical sense as well as in a spiritual sense," she said.

Monsignor Joseph Boardman, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, knew Father Delaney and described his as "quite a character" and a "wonderful priest" who was "much-loved" within the community. "He was loved by people of all ages. The youngsters at the secondary school thought the world of him and he loved his job, he loved the school. In the parish also, he was very much a priest of the people. He was a character - he used to go around on his bike. That was another feature of him."

Monsignor Boardman, who is also the parish priest for St Joseph's in Penarth, described Father Delaney as a "holy man" but added that he "didn't try to project an aura of sanctity around him." "He was just a genuine, holy man and people could see that it him and it attracted them to him," he said.

A Requiem Mass for Father Delaney will take place on Friday, May 20 at midday at Buckfast Abbey. Large numbers of people are expected to attend and, therefore, a memorial service will also take place in Cardiff for those who are unable to travel to Buckfast Abbey for his Requiem Mass. Details are set to be announced shortly. 

Reference: Wales on Line: Elizabeth Thomas 

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