The Funeral of Archbishop Beck took place on Tuesday, almost exactly 30 years after his consecration as Coadjutor in Brentwood diocese on September 21, 1948.
George Andrew Beck was born on May 28, 1904 — the 1,300th anniversary, according to tradition, of the death of St Augustine of Canterbury, the Great Apostle of England.
As many know St Augustine, besides converting the then pagan Saxon Kingdom, also endeavoured to bring about a reconciliation between the Celtic Church of Wales and the northwest and his new converts.
There was a great council called the Council of the Severn in the year 603 to achieve this, but his efforts failed, and his daily death the following year was partly attributed to this failure.
There is no doubt that Archbishop Beck, whose knowledge of history was very thorough, wished all his life to follow the traditions of St Augustine in obtaining amity and reconciliation.
In 1967 the Senate of Manchester University elected Archbishop Beck to be an honorary Doctor of Law and Literature. When this was being presented the University Orator commented: "If his parents had known at the time of his birth that he was eventually going to become the Archbishop of Liverpool they would surely not have named him George Andrew but rather Patrick David."
This comment raised a ripple of mirth especially in view of the general ethnical background of the citizens of that great seaport.
In 1944 a new, and at that time revolutionary, Education Act called the Butler Act, was passed by Parliament.
As the months passed it became evident to the Conference of Catholic Bishops that it was necessary to formulate a new approach, and they decided to re-constitute the Catholic Education Council, which was their co-ordinating body in the field of education.
They sought after an ecclesiastic who could be the chairman of the new council, Fr Beck, as he then was, the headmaster of Beckett School in Nottingham, had written a great deal on Catholic education in various periodicals.
His background was significant. He was born in South London, and had eventually joined the Order of the Augustinians of the Assumption, who were the providers of the Beckett School. There can be little doubt that the ethos of his order influenced Fr Beck a great deal.
In France they were a potent political force and conducted and published the famous newspaper Lacroix. It could not be unex
pected, therefore, to find one of the senior members of the congregation in England being interested in national educational affairs and desirous to influence them.
In the event, then, Fr Beck was consecrated bishop and at the same time he was appointed chairman of the reconstituted Catholic Education Council.
The times were difficult. The provision of secondary schools made necessary by the new law, and the expanding birth-rate which created a need for new primary schools, imposed very severe financial burdens on the Catholic community which Bishop Beck had to represent.
While one does not know the details of his planning and of his discussions with his fellow bishops, one does realise that in the event his plans were successful and that in consequence Catholic schools were provided wherever they were needed.
Our present sorrow is that with a declining birth-rate we now find that the provision was too good. In this connection one must not forget that he took upon himself the heavy burden of negotiations with the Government Departments concerned not only in the area or
finance for schools, but also in the more sensitive area of teacher training provision.
It was during his period as chairman of the council that new Catholic colleges were established — in Liverpool Christ's College, in Leeds Trinity and All Saints, in Birmingham Newman College and in Nottingham Mary Ward College.
Bishop Beck also saw into the future in so far as three of these colleges were designed to be coeducational.
In addition to these new colleges he also negotiated developments and expansion of the existing colleges, and ensured that the financial arrangements were adequate to make the expansion possible.
In 1955 Dr Beck was elected Bishop of Salford. While being impelled to give his first attention to schools and teachers, as the Bishop of Salford he realised the importance of university education and was instrumental in providing a new hall of residence for Manchester University, Allen Hall, and in a complete redevelopment of the University's Catholic Chaplaincy in the centre of the university campus.
Both of these projects received great public support and each has been most successful.
Bishop Beck of Salford became Archbishop of Liverpool on March 1, 1964. He reminded some friends that the day before was February 29 and therefore it
was Leap Year, and an omen of some kind.
In Liverpool the new Archbishop entered fully into the educational problems of the large diocese, but also he had the problems of overseeing the completion or the new Cathedral — a Cathedral which stands as a memorial not only to himself and his forerunners in the Episcopal Chair but also to the firm faith of the Liverpool clergy and people.
After the completion of the Cathedral, of which he was very proud, he lost no opportunity of bringing to the notice of others the resurgence of faith which had resulted from it.
Archbishop Beck was possessed of many personal gifts. Outstanding among these were his patient understanding, his ability to make and keep friends, and his total inability to cause animosity in others.
Monuments to his work in Catholic education can be found in all parts of England and Wales. Monuments to the work he considered his primary task, the care of souls, can be found in the three dioceses he ruled — B re n two od , Safford and Liverpool.