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Obituary: Canon Owen Vigeon

03 July 2020

A correspondent writes:

BORN in Carlisle on 9 June 1928, Canon Owen George Vigeon served as a priest in the Church of England for more than six decades.

As a young man, Owen’s faith was nurtured and supported by his devout parents George and Dilys Vigeon. On leaving Carlisle Grammar School in 1946, he joined the navy as an ordinary signalman and completed his two years of National Service.

In 1949, he went up to Cambridge, where he studied history at Peterhouse. On being accepted for ordination, he attended Ely Theological College, and, in 1954, he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Carlisle, Thomas Bloomer. He was ordained priest the following year while serving as a curate at St Luke’s in Barrow-in-Furness, where he spent four happy and formative years.

Owen went on to serve as chaplain and lecturer in divinity at St John’s College, York, from 1958 until his marriage to Bishop Bloomer’s daughter Cathleen Sally Bloomer. The couple were married in April 1961 in Dalston Parish Church, the Bishop officiating in what the Cumberland News called “the wedding of the year”. Their marriage lasted until Sally’s death in 2017 on the eve of their 56th wedding anniversary.

Upon his marriage, Owen moved from Carlisle diocese to Blackburn, as Vicar of St Stephen’s, Burnley. In 1968, he was appointed Diocesan Assistant Director of Education and became Vicar of St Hilda’s, Bilsborrow. In 1973, the family relocated to St Annes-on-the-Sea, where he was Vicar of St Thomas’s; in 1983, he became Rural Dean of the Fylde as well. His next move was to Halton with Augton, on the outskirts of Lancaster, in 1985, where he remained, becoming an Hon. Canon of Blackburn Cathedral, until he retired in 1993.

Owen continued to officiate during retirement, first at Bromsgrove in Worcester diocese, and then in Coventry, where he spent his final years.

It was in retirement that he was able to spend more time on his passion for music and the arts. An accomplished pianist and flautist, Owen composed original music and hymns, compiled a book of poetry, and served as chaplain on creative-arts retreats, leading meditations on religious art, icons, and writings of the saints.

One of his great joys was to attend choral evensong at cathedrals. He always placed an emphasis on nurturing the choir at his parish churches and making sure that the celebration of the liturgy was suitably ceremonial, reflecting his devotion to the medium through which the congregation communicated with the divine. He was also a preacher committed to spreading the word of God, and, in sermons, he expounded on faith in a way relevant to the experiences of his flock and the current events of the time.

Throughout his long ministry, Owen’s compassion and kindness remained his defining qualities. He and Sally opened their homes to others, and anyone in need or distress would find a welcome. Owen always saw the best in people, always gave others the benefit of the doubt, and always sought the path of peace and unity and simple faith in Christ. While not without faults and struggles of his own, Owen was the best of us. He described Jesus as his “friend, though not always a comfortable one”, and consented to view the changes and challenges of life through the prism of the gospel. As Julian of Norwich wrote in Revelations of Divine Love, one of Owen’s favourite meditations, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Owen remained faithful to his Church and his God until the end. He was blessed with a peaceful passing into eternity on 21 May, in hospital in Coventry, three weeks shy of his 92nd birthday. He is survived by his sister, Evelyn, his children, Rachel, Timothy, Clare, and Sarah, and his three grandchildren.

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