Canon Reggie Fuller, the oldest priest of the Diocese of Westminster, died on Maundy Thursday, 21 April 2011, at Nazareth House, East Finchley. He was 102 years of age and had been a priest for 79 of them. May he rest in peace.
Reginald Cuthbert Fuller was born in St John’s Wood, London, on 12th September 1908, one of the several children of Dr Arthur Fuller and Florence Fuller (née Montgomery). He was educated at the then Ealing Priory School, the Cardinal Vaughan School and Ampleforth College. He entered the Seminary at Allen Hall, St Edmund’s College, Ware in 1926 and was ordained to the Priesthood by Cardinal Francis Bourne in Westminster Cathedral on 29th June 1931.
After Ordination, young Fr Reggie was sent to Rome for further studies at the Angelicum and Biblicum – obtaining Licentiates in Theology (1933) and Sacred Scripture (1934) and a Doctorate in Theology (1935). On his return to the Diocese he was Scripture Professor from 1936-1949 at the Seminary in Ware. From 1949-1950 he was Assistant Priest at Our Lady of Victories, Kensington, and from 1950-1963 Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street. Academia once more beckoned – and Reggie went up to Cambridge from 1963-1968, being awarded a Doctorate with a thesis on ‘Alexander Geddes: A Pioneer in Biblical Criticism, 1737-1802’. He put this added learning to good use from 1968-1972 as Lecturer in Biblical Studies at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill and then Lecturer in Old Testament from 1972-1975 at Nairobi University in Kenya. On return from Africa in 1975 he was appointed as a Chaplain at Westminster Cathedral where he remained until his appointment in 1978 as Parish Priest of Copenhagen Street. In 1983 he retired to St Mellitus', Tollington Park, continuing to write and assisting in the parish. It was while living at Tollington Park that Reggie was beaten unconscious by a trio of young burglars. Fr Peter Lyons heard the commotion and was also set upon by the gang. The attackers were arrested and subsequently given custodial sentences. Reggie was understandably very shaken by the experience which was reported in the National Press at the time. But he bounced back!
From 1990 - 1994 he was resident in Poplar Parish again helping out with daily Masses while continuing with his writing and other interests. In 1994 Cardinal Basil Hume nominated Reggie for one of the flats in Vaughan House where he remained until he needed more care and the final move was made to Nazareth House, East Finchley. On the occasion of his 70th anniversary of Ordination in 2001 he was appointed an Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Chapter by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. He also celebrated his 100th birthday in September 2008 with a Mass and social gathering at the Cathedral.
Among his numerous published books, articles and book reviews, Reggie was particularly proud of being on the Editorial Committee of ‘A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture’ (1953) and, of course, for co-editing ‘The Holy Bible – Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition’ (1966) and its ecumenical counterpart, ‘The Common Bible’ (1973). He was also co-founder in 1940 of the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) of Great Britain. It was as representative of the CBA that he suggested to the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales the adoption of ‘English’ spellings of Bible names for Catholic use (e.g. Noah, Joshua and Elijah in place of Noe, Josue and Elias as found in the Douay-Challoner Bible). He had enjoyed his years teaching in Africa a great deal and given any opportunity would wax lyrical about the Great Rift Valley, Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro!
Canon Reggie’s Funeral Mass, at which Archbishop Vincent Nichols will be the main celebrant, will be in Westminster Cathedral on Tuesday 17 May at 10.30am.