The life of a Middlesbrough diocesan priest who had an extraordinary impact on the people he served is celebrated in a new biography.
Father Tony Storey – known to many simply as “Storey” – was a gifted writer and preacher whose intellect, inspirational style and lifelong commitment to the poor and oppressed won him an army of admirers.
Storey: A Priest For His Time is the work of historian Peter Roebuck CBE, who was an undergraduate and PhD student during Father Tony’s time as University of Hull chaplain.
“Like many others who knew Storey well, I regard him as the finest priest and among the most remarkable human beings I ever encountered,” Peter said. “Storey lived for 88 years and was extraordinarily active for all but the last few weeks of his long life.
“Ordained in 1943, aged 24, he spent his whole career as a priest in the Diocese of Middlesbrough, witnessing profound changes in virtually every facet of human life, not least in Catholicism.
“He was fiercely loyal to the Church, but also a well-educated and highly intelligent man of a distinctly questing cast of mind who believed there were faults overdue for repair and avenues still unexplored.
“While not always easy to reconcile, these characteristics were fertile ground for the growth of an inspired ministry, which, in turbulent times, was deeply appreciated.
“He was a committed environmentalist, a talented preacher and broadcaster and a skilled and experienced counsellor. Ultimately, he said, there were only two imperatives – to love one another and to plant trees.”
Father Tony was instantly recognisable at over six feet tall with a narrow bone structure, a prominent Roman nose and large, piercing eyes.
He was born on the Warter Priory estate near Pocklington, where his father was chief agent, and studied at Stonyhurst before training for the priesthood at the English College in Rome until it was evacuated in 1940 with war raging across Europe. He completed his studies at St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, and was ordained in 1943.
After further studies at Christ’s College, Cambridge, he served as a curate in Middlesbrough and Saltburn, where his experience of working-class people confirmed him as “a liberal on the left”.
In 1955 he moved to St Charles in Hull and as well as spending a decade as university chaplain, he also served in Stokesley, Brough Park, Bedale and Holy Cross, Cottingham.
The book traces the origins and nature of the many strands of Father Tony’s complex personality, attitudes and outlook and charts the key influences that combined to inform and enrich a remarkable ministry and profound personal wisdom.
Peter Roebuck is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Ulster and lives in Cumbria with his wife, Fiona.
Storey: A Priest For His Time (pp xii+258, 30 illustrations) is priced £15 plus £4 P&P and is only available from the publisher Bookcase, 19 Castle Street, Carlisle CA3 8SY, firstname.lastname@example.org, 01228 544560.