Father Gregory was the Provost of the Birmingham Oratory from 1971 until 1992 except for six months in 1977. He is well remembered for the work he did in the pursuit of the Canonisation of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, being the Actor for the cause for some years.
The Oratory website has a lovely tribute to Father Gregory which provides many further details of his life and it is not my plan to reproduce those here. From it though most poignant for me is the following quote:
"The moment when Fr Gregory was presented to Pope Benedict XVI and, later that same day, when they met at the Oratory House, provided unforgettable pictures: two men in their eighties—one (the Pope) a devoted student of Newman, the other (Fr Gregory) the tireless advocate of Newman’s holiness. It was the culmination of half a life-time’s hard work for Fr Gregory."
I vividly remember that moment at Cofton Park, pictured above. In the months that followed I heard so many others who knew Father Gregory comment on it, recalling it with pleasure. At the time I knew relatively little of Father Gregory's role in the work that lead to us all being there that day for the beatification. When he later visited Ireland and we spent some time talking together I began to understand a little more of the efforts that he personally made but his modesty obscured just how much he had done. Friday when I opened The Times I must admit I was surprised to discover that they had run a full page obituary for Father Gregory instead of the usual few short paragraphs that I had expected. It was only on reading this piece, much of the content of which is also covered in the Oratory's own piece, that I learnt just how significant a role he had played
Father Gregory's trip to Ireland in May 2011 was to deliver a series of conferences during the Sodality of Our Lady Retreat in Mount Melleray Abbey, O.C.S.O., Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. The theme of these was Newman and Our Lady, a subject close to the hearts of the Sodality, a group not only dedicated to Our Lady but one which meets regularly in Newman's University Church in Dublin. Those who attended found much interest in and benefit from his talks and we all felt privileged at Father Gregory's presence, appreciating the tremendous effort he, then 88 and frail, had made to be with us. Subsequently his talks were published in the Sodality Journal and a copy has been placed here for free download so that others have the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom.
There are so many people who knew Father Gregory far better than I did but I hope readers will understand that it seems strange to me to write a piece like this without sharing some of my own personal recollections. In particular I remember sitting with him at breakfast in the dining room at Mount Melleray whilst we ate porridge, a favourite of his, and he told me about how he came to join the Oratory and how he used to cycle from there right across the city to attend lectures at Oscott College. However, most of all I think I will remember his joy, how at the simplest things a smile would come across his face and it would light up, as he would start to chuckle at some piece of humour which caught his fancy.
Father Gregory, rest in peace, you will be missed by so many.