Latest News at Buckfast Abbey

Fr Christopher Delaney

Requiem Mass of Fr Christopher Delaney, Friday 20th May at Midday in the Abbey Church.

We are expecting a large number of people to attend Fr Christopher’s funeral, and cannot guarantee entry to everybody, therefore we shall also be live-streaming the Mass in the Schiller Hall.

On Friday, the Grange Restaurant will be closed as we prepare for the funeral reception. Tea and Coffee will be available to all visitors before the funeral in the Schiller Hall. 

For those in Cardiff area who knew Fr Christopher, a local memorial service will take place in the near future. Details to be published soon.

Born on 26th September 1932, Michael Delaney was the second child and only boy with four sisters. His father, Noel, came from a large family in Warrington; his mother Hilda’s family were from the German speaking part of Switzerland. 

During the Second World War, while Noel Delaney, a GP, was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, the children were sent to Brinsop Court near Hereford. It was here that Michael encountered his first Benedictine monk who came to say Mass from the nearby Abbey of Belmont. Following the War, from 1947 until 1950, a more prolonged experience of the Benedictine life was gained whilst a pupil at Downside Abbey School in Somerset.

Having completed his time at Downside, the 18-year-old Michael Delaney and family drove to Buckfast Abbey, South Devon on 29th September 1950, the day he began his life as a Benedictine monk. Fr Christopher has written: "The story goes that, as soon as my father got home, he picked up a railway timetable to find out when I would be coming back! Oh ye of little faith." It was at this point that, following monastic tradition, Michael Delaney was given a new name, and he became Br Christopher.

The daily routine in a monastery at that time was quite austere. The monks rose at 4.55am, with the first service in church at 5.15am. There was no running water in the bedrooms and the day was punctuated by bells calling the monk to services in the Abbey church, as well as by manual work in the gardens, honey department and chicken farm. One of Br Christopher’s jobs was to keep the lawns surrounding the church trimmed, and to help in the monastic shop which catered for the increasing number of visitors. There was no television or radio for the young monks, but what they could enjoy were long walks on nearby Dartmoor, taking a packed lunch and enjoying the beautiful landscape.

On 19th January 1955, Br Christopher made his Solemn Profession, when he promised to be a monk for the rest of his life. And having completed his studies in theology, he was then ordained a priest on 15th September 1957, becoming Fr Christopher Delaney for the first time. In consultation with his Abbot, it was decided that he should gain first-hand experience of parish life, and in 1961 he began a two-year period at St Mary's, Highfield Street, Liverpool.

Fr Christopher has described this time as a "life changing experience". He threw himself into parish life, and soon found himself standing on the Kop at Anfield, watching Liverpool play with young parishioners. However, the football wasn’t restricted to the stadium; he was instrumental in bombed areas being tarmacked so that local children could play football in the so-called 'Street Leagu'’. It was also at Liverpool that he gained his first experience of working in a youth club and the parish school, both of which were to become such important areas of his ministry in Cardiff some years later.

Upon returning to Buckfast Abbey in 1963, Fr Christopher began working in the parish of St Benedict's, Buckfastleigh, the small town next to Buckfast itself. This enabled him to continue his interest in youth work, as well as spending time visiting parishioners in their homes.

It was in 1967 that Fr Christopher’s life was to take a new direction, when he began an extraordinary and immensely fruitful ministry at St Mary's, Talbot Street. Almost immediately, building on the foundations laid at Liverpool and Buckfastleigh, Fr Christopher began work as a school chaplain. This was to become an essential element of his priestly work in Cardiff and was a role which enabled his unique gifts to flourish. He became a wise and trusted presence in the school community, offering a listening heart and wise counsel. Together with this work in Bishop Hannon School and later Mary Immaculate, there was a wider engagement in youth work, including a burgeoning Folk Group and a much-loved variety show.

Fr Christopher's work with the homeless ensured an enduring and life-giving legacy amongst Cardiff's most vulnerable residents. Whilst the material side of this work was essential, perhaps even more important was his desire to recognise the dignity of each individual, to hear their story and enable their potential to be realised, all the while refraining from judgement. These qualities were at the heart of all his priestly ministry, be it as Prison and Hospital Chaplain, visiting the sick, welcoming callers to the Presbytery, and simply accompanying parishioners in their moments of joy and grief.

There will be countless stories from people whose lives he touched in his unique way, including the many adventures on his beloved bicycle, with journeys to Land's End and John O'Groats, Lourdes in France, and Switzerland. However, despite maintaining an extremely active lifestyle well into his seventies, and celebrating the happy occasion of his 50th anniversary of priesthood in 2007, Fr Christopher began to struggle with his health, including a period of severe osteoporosis. And just before he was due to return to his monastic home at Buckfast Abbey in 2011, he had a traumatic accident on his bike which left him very badly shaken and injured. This delayed, but in no way overshadowed, a wonderful farewell party, which celebrated his 43 years of ministry in his beloved Cardiff, and which remained a truly treasured memory in his heart. 

Upon his return to Buckfast, Fr Christopher very quickly became a much-loved presence amongst the extended Buckfast Community. He carried out an important ministry of welcome and pastoral care to all who worked at Buckfast as well as to the countless visitors. At the same time, he became the Novice Master, responsible for the care and formation of those who entered the monastic life. Just as he did in his Cardiff ministry, so now he sought to help these individuals realise their innate dignity and unique vocation. Alongside these roles, Fr Christopher supported the Education Department in their work with visiting schoolchildren, thus continuing a ministry he began some 50 years previously in Liverpool.

Having celebrated his diamond jubilee in 2017 and taken a full part in Buckfast’s Millennium events in 2018, including a starring role in the BBC's Antique’s Roadshow, Fr Christopher's health began to take a turn for the worse. He has written very movingly about a period of severe depression which ultimately led to his need for long term care at Nazareth House in Cardiff, a time of recuperation prolonged by the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. And it was there that a deeply loved Fr Christopher Delaney died in the early hours of Sunday 8th May 2022.

Fr Christopher’s Requiem Mass will take place on Friday 20th May at Midday in the Abbey Church.


A couple of pieces created by Father Christopher for the Annual Buckfast Abbey Staff Review, we thought you might enjoy these...

Father Christopher's Pet Hates!

I wonder if you share any of my own personal pet hates? Top of the list has to be bats. Why these harmless and nocturnal creatures are my bête noire I do not know. Perhaps it is because of their reputation which could be quite unfounded. There was a bat in the guest corridor recently which quite frankly almost deterred me from walking down the corridor. In the end I put my hood up and almost ran down – pathetic don't you think? But there it is. Bats are no friends of mine!

And there are queues which appears to be a British institution. For the Swiss, for instance, having to queue is a strange habit. So much so, when visiting relatives in that country, my cousin spotted a line of people waiting to go into an exhibition and she remarked: Oh look! A queue! When waiting for a bus, for example, the Swiss just seem to wait in a kind of disorderly but polite fashion until the bus arrives – needless to say on time – and then they enter in an orderly fashion. But my pet hate, when waiting in a queue, is when the person in front of you seems to take an interminable time to get their business done. I ask myself: What can they be doing to take up so much time? No wonder there are queues. And there are those waiting in a queue to pay but, instead of having their money or purse ready, will look for it at the cash desk. Why not have it ready beforehand? But the card has limited cash transaction – putting in your PIN could also cause some delay.

Other pet hates are having to endure cold weather. This means having to put on layers of clothes and the right ones to stave off the cold. My advice is always wear a bobble hat – this headwear really does help to keep the warmth in. Perhaps it is true that the heat does escape through the top! And then I must confess to hate being kept waiting either for buses, trains or people. Recently, on holiday, the train stopped in a tunnel just outside Clapham Junction. The announcement came through: We do not know how long we will be here. This left me, literally, completely in the dark! What surprised me was two things – first how tolerant the other passengers were (I could learn from them) and the fact that I was able to use my mobile to phone my friend meeting me at Waterloo to tell of my plight. I got there in the end! Only to suffer the same fate on the return journey to Godalming when the train stopped at Guildford where we were told that the train crew due to take over had not arrived. Again we were told that the departure time was delayed (an understatement) and that we might have to wait for some time. Again, the mobile came to the rescue and I was picked up at Guildford. As far as I was aware the train was still in the station.

Finally, there is pain. At the time of writing I have a corn on my left foot which is causing great discomfort. Happily, the podiatrist is coming to the rescue but corns are another of my pets. If you have read this far, one of my pet hates would be if you have not. But then, if you have had not read as far as this you would not know of ALL my pet hates which is not reading what I have written. So I hope you persevered to the end.

Another of my pet hates must be long homilies. Pope Francis will back me up because in his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel he has this to say: It (the homily) should be brief and avoid taking on the semblance of a speech or a lecture. A preacher may be able to hold the attention of his listeners for an hour, but in this case his words become more important than the celebration of the faith. If the homily goes on too long, it will effect two characteristic elements of the liturgical celebration: its balance and its rhythm. I like it when he writes that both the faithful and the ordained ministers suffer because of homilies; the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad, he writes, that this is the case.

On quite another pet hate, to end, it has to be the hills of Devon. To find somewhere flat to enjoy a cycle ride is almost impossible. There are areas, such as the Exe estuary, but these are rare and a luxury. For this cyclist, fast becoming more geriatric every day, it is not park and ride but walk and ride. So now I will apply the brakes and finally stop.

Father Christopher

The Curse of the Digital Camera

Fr Christopher writes about THE CURSE OF THE DIGITAL CAMERA. Let me make it quite clear from the outset that I am all for this camera but……let us start before the digital camera came on the market. There was once a time when you went to a camera shop, a chemist or a supermarket and bought a reel of film which could take either twelve or thirty-six pictures. And these were differentiated by speeds and brands. There was Agfa, Kodak and Fuji to name a few. Having loaded your camera it was necessary to get the correct settings – speed and light. Remember all this? Once the reel was full – that is to say you had taken your twelve or thirty-six photos – you then took your film along to Happy Snaps or Quick Print or some such camera shop to wait expectantly to see how they, the photos, came out! This took a day or two – you paid extra if you wanted them within 24 hours – and when they finally came back it was: that came out well or that was not a good one. If reprints were required then it was back to the shop. How quaint that sounds now! Today there is a completely new language to do with photography. I will not bore you with that! Digital cameras are great to use because, as you well know, you can see instantly the results and can go back and repeat if not satisfied. And there is the downloading and transmitting from one phone to another.

No, for me the curse of the digital camera is the irresponsible way it is used. Being prominent in the forecourt and normally the only one in the monk's habit, I become instantly the focus, in more senses than one, of attention. With the old style reel to reel camera it was almost impossible to take instant photos without having to pose. But now this monk is sometimes faced with a battery of cameras wherever he is and whatever he is doing. Once, in the Gift Shop, I heard someone say 'Gotcha!' I thought it was someone looking for me. Alas it was a man taking a photo without so much as a please or thank you! Sitting outside in the summer provides an easy target for photographers. I am a sitting duck being shot at. If permission is asked that is fine. The trouble today is that one never knows where these photos are going to end up or even, horror of horrors, doctored. However, there is the plus side. People who have asked permission have taken the trouble and been kind enough to send the results. All, without exception, have been very flattering. And then, of course, there is the selfie. But that is quite another thing. No, I am not against the digital camera – I have one myself (a Lumix if you want to know – a gift) but it is the way they are used with gay abandon. Like all things, there is use and misuse. So if you see me anywhere about the Abbey and you have your camera and wish to take a photo of me then, having asked permission it will be readily granted. But why anyone should want to take a picture of me I shall never know! But then it could be the monk's habit that attracts. But please be in the habit of asking first – that is all I ask. Thank you.

Father Christopher