WGWheelerJames Hagerty

This article looks at the life of William Gordon Wheeler (1910-1998). Ordained an Anglican, he converted to Catholicism and attended the final sessions of the Second Vatican Council. James Hagerty is a former Head teacher and has taught Church history at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham.

A journey into the fullness of faith
Since the Restoration of the Hierarchy, there has been a distinguished line of Catholic prelates who formerly were Anglican priests. Among them is William Gordon Wheeler, the seventh Bishop of Leeds.

Born in Yorkshire in 1910, Wheeler was cradled in the care of a loving Anglican family. He was imbued with a sense and an appreciation of Christianity that was further nurtured by inspirational teachers at Manchester Grammar School who also instilled in him a love of history and literature. At University College, Oxford, he became familiar with the writings of John Henry Newman and at St Stephen's College with the traditions of High Anglicanism. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1934.

Wheeler's Anglican priesthood brought him little satisfaction. This was no surprise for at Oxford and immediately before ordination, he harboured doubts about the Anglican Church and its relationship to the doctrines and liturgy of the Church of Rome. His study of Newman's writings and sermons, his discussions with Oxford contemporaries, and his contact with the Cowley Fathers moved him inexorably towards Catholicism. In 1936, after much soul searching and prayer and to the utter devastation of his family, he left the Anglican Communion and was received into the Catholic Church at Downside. He had found no theological assurance in the Anglican faith and on his conversion felt 'enriched by the certainty which only the See of Peter can give'. He had 'Poped' and had found his 'true home in this part of the Vineyard'.

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