As for so many of you, the news that reached me here in Rome on Monday evening(20/01/2003) of the death of our archivist Gerard Tracey brought a sense of shock and great sadness. We offer to his mother, and to all his family and friends, our deepest sympathy and our prayers.
The morning after the news arrived I celebrated a Mass of Requiem for Gerard in Newman's Chapel in the College of Propaganda Fidei, accompanied by Sisters of The Work, who look after Littlemore for us. It was appropriate that we were at the altar where John Henry Newman celebrated his first Mass in 1847 in order to pray for someone who had given virtually the whole of his life in service of the Cardinal and the Oratory.
Gerard Tracey was educated at the old S. Philip's Grammar School and then at Oxford, and it was in those early years that he grew to know the Oratory and its history, which he loved and treasured so deeply. He became the disciple of our great Newman scholar, F. Stephen Dessain, and when F. Stephen died suddenly in May, 1976, Gerard was well equipped to step into his shoes and become the Librarian and Archivist of the Oratory. F. Stephen had begun the huge project of editing and publishing Newman's Letters and Diaries, and Gerard proved himself a worthy successor in undertaking this painstaking work. At the time of his own death the project, running since 1961, is still to be completed, along with several others which Gerard was supervising.
Around the world there are so many Newman scholars who owe Gerard an enormous debt of gratitude for the time he took in directing their research and guiding them in their academic writing. There is scarcely a modern work on Cardinal Newman's life or writings that does not acknowledge the unstinting help Gerard gave its author. The whole Newman world will miss him and his irreplaceable store of knowledge of the Cardinal and his epoch.
We at the Oratory will miss him in other ways too - his culinary skills, his conversation, his encyclopaedic knowledge of detective stories, and - not least - his profound understanding of how the Oratory House's drains work!
Gerard joins that small band of individuals associated with the Oratory in Birmingham who have acquired their own distinguished place in our history.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
The Very Rev’d Paul Chavasse