Genius Recalled : He Acted While Others Talked
Front Our Own Correspondent
Early on Monday, the fourth anniversary of Fr. Lester's death, in the presence of a Home Office representative, the body of Fr. Lester, which had been exhumed from its grave at midnight on Friday, was encased in a leaden shell and placed in a new coffin, in the mortuary chapel of St. Mary's Cemetery, Kensal Green.
At 10.30 a.m. the coffin was received at Campion House, Osterley, and solemnly conveyed to a commanding position in the garden. A guard of honour, consisting of four students in cassock and surplice, took up their positions, one at each corner of the coffin, and stood at attention.
Students, godfathers, and godmothers formed in two rows, on either side of the coffin and stood in silent prayer for half-an-hour.
At II o'clock a solemn requiem was sung by Fr. Clement Tigar, S.J., the successor of Fr. Lester, and two of Fr. Lester's past students acted as deacon and sub-deacon, Fr. Francis Dobson, S.J., of Farm Street. and Fr. Edmund Golston, of Slough.
The panegyric was preached by Fr. Robert Steuart, S.J., of Wimbledon. He said: " A genius is one who sees things a little before anyone else and, while others talk, acts. In this sense Edmund Lester was a genius. He saw that many potential priests were being lost to the Church because of age, or because they had not received the right kind of early education.
" With vision and courage he founded Campion House as a house where late vocations could receive the preliminary training necessary to fit them for entering seminaries and novitiates. Nine hundred candidates have passed through Campion House; three hundred and sixty-two have already been ordained, about half in the secular clergy and half in the various religious orders, and are working in different parts of the world; and four hundred are in various stages of preparation for the priesthood.
" The work that Fr. Lester founded has endured. Today, four years after his death, thanks to the unfailing generosity of those godfathers and godmothers who, often at considerable self-sacrifice, have continued to support the work, Campion House continues, with seventy-two students at present in residence.
The K.B.S. Crusade
" Not only did he found Campion House, but he also started the Crusade of the Blessed Sacrament, now numbering three million members. All these Knights, Handmaids and Pages are pledged to weekly or daily Communion, and to a chivalrous attitude towards life.
" Seldom can any man have seen his vision so completely realised as Fr. Lester: hundreds of zealous priests given to the Church, millions of souls stimulated to a greater devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. His achievement is one of the most remarkable in the modern history of the Church in England, if not in the world."
The Last Resting Place
A long procession of priests escorted Fr. Lester to his last resting-place in a secluded corner of the garden he loved so well, at the foot of a beautiful Calvary. Students, in cassock and surplice, carried the coffin, to the triumphant singing of the " In Paradisum," followed by a concourse of godfathers and godmothers.
When the coffin had been lowered into the grave each of the guests sprinkled it with holy water, and cast a handful of soil upon it, their last tribute to the friend they loved so well.
Among the clergy were : Very Rev. Bernard Brown (White Fathers, Provincial), Very Rev. Louis Cheray (Society of St. Edmund), Fr. Killian Shendon (Passionist), Fr. Wilson, O.S.C., Fr. Bliss, S.J., Fr. Manning, Fr. Bromley, Fr. Dommerson, Fr. McKenna, Fr. Purney, Fr. Gardner, Fr. Barton, Fr. Cohen, Fr. West, Fr. Raftery, Fr. Carter, and Fr. Tritchler.