On Thursday 17 November, the Diocese of Westminster presented awards to eleven volunteers or groups of volunteers for their work in responding to needs in their parishes and communities. During the evening special mention was made of two individuals who had committed their lives to volunteering, and improving the lives of those around them. Bruce Kent, well known activist and campaigner for peace, and Libby Biberian, a volunteer at Caritas St Joseph’s.
Fr Joe Ryan, former Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace, gave this tribute to Bruce’s life and work:
“I have known Bruce Kent for over 50 years, firstly as a fellow-priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster. He was Secretary to Cardinal Hennan. As University Chaplain, he secured the premises at Gower Street and in priestly ministry I had always found him inspiring, encouraging and totally dedicated in his love of God and his fellow human beings.
One can only stand in awe at the breadth and depth of his varied concerns for others.
His vision was local but also there were no limits to his horizons.
In five minutes how could anyone deal adequately with his involvement and leadership in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND): Abolition of War; Amnesty International; Pax Christi; Social Justice; Human Rights; Geneva Conventions; Rights of Prisoners; His extensive Letter Writing and Prompting notes to Leaders; Ethical Investments; Parish involvement….. and much more
All this involvement done with sincerity, clarity and a sense of humour.
Whether you were rich or poor; powerful or less-so; Bruce treated each person with the same dignity and respect.
He was a gifted speaker with natural authority. He had a razor-sharp intellect always able to get to the kernel of his topic in the minimum of words. His clarity of thought and his Christian faith brought light and direction to many of us struggling with complex arguments around subjects like war and peace and the care of our planet.
He was all the time probing as to the underlying causes of injustices and human tragedies. This was where many people saw him as a threat. It was like Archbishop Helder Camera who once said:
“When I feed the hungry, they call a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist”
When I replaced Bruce as parish priest in St Aloysius, Somers Town (Euston), our friendship entered a new phase. I had seen the work he had done in the parish and beyond and found it all so inspirational and uplifting. Personally, I am very much in debt to Bruce also for his encouragement during me thirteen years as Chair of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission.
And a new image of Bruce! I could see him as God’s ventriloquist or the ventriloquist of the Holy Spirit! One who spoke on behalf of others who had no voice of their own. Jesus needs our hands, our hearts and our voices today to proclaim the Gospel message with clarity and conviction. Bruce did this with distinction!
As we celebrate this award, given posthumously, and accepted by Valerie, his wife, there are a few important items for us all. The best way to pay tribute to Bruce is to take up maybe just one of the many concerns he had in his life. His tireless concern for the poor, the marginalised, those in whatever need they find themselves, the asking of relevant questions – these are the ways we can keep Bruce’s memories alive”.