BLESSED JOHN FENWICK John Fenwick was born in Durham, England, in 1628. Fenwick, whose real surname was Caldwell, was disowned by his Protestant parents when he converted to Catholicism. In 1654 he went to St Omer and, on 28th September 1656, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Watten. He was ordained priest in 1664 and, returning to St Omer, he was made procurator of the College. In 1674, Fr Fenwick was sent upon the English Mission to work in the London area.
On the night of 28th September 1678, armed soldiers, led by that convicted perjurer, Titus Oates, entered his lodgings and arrested Fr Fenwick. Another Jesuit, Fr William Ireland, and an assistant, John Grove, were also taken prisoner. The three were incarcerated at Newgate Prison where they received harsh treatment. John Fenwick suffered so much from his chains and bolts that amputation of one of his legs was considered. This was decided against because the authorities were certain he would soon be convicted and executed anyway!
On 17th December 1678, Fr John Fenwick appeared at the Old Bailey and was tried for High Treason. Being a Catholic priest and saying Mass constituted High Treason! Because there was insufficient evidence to find the Jesuit guilty, he was sent back to prison. Witnesses had already testified but justice was not meant for Catholics, especially Catholic priests. Under the Penal Laws the only objective was to find priests guilty and execute them so the trial was postponed to a later date!
On 13th June 1679, Fr Fenwick again appeared at the Old Bailey for trial. Titus Oates and the equally corrupt Stephen Dugdale were witnesses against him. Lord Chief Justice William Scroggs instructed the jury to find the priest guilty. As expected, the jury complied and John Fenwick was found guilty of high Treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
One week later, on Friday, 20th June 1679, Fr John Fenwick was taken to Tyburn in London. As he stood awaiting his fate, a messenger arrived shouting “A pardon, a pardon.” He delivered to the sheriff a document stating that the condemned man would be pardoned if he admitted his guilt and told all about the plot. The steadfast Fr Fenwick replied that he could acknowledge no guilt for a non-existent plot and would not lie to gain a pardon. The barbaric execution was carried out and the martyred priest’s remains were claimed by friends who buried them in the churchyard of St Giles in the Fields.
Jesuit martyr, Fr John Fenwick, was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15th December 1929.
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THE ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE IN HONOUR OF ST DAVID LEWIS WILL TAKE PLACE ON SUNDAY 29TH AUGUST 2010. HOLY MASS WILL BE CELEBRATED AT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, PORTH-Y-CARNE STREET, USK, AT 3 P M. MASS WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A PROCESSION TO THE MARTYR'S GRAVE WHERE A SHORT SERVICE WILL BE HELD. REFRESHMENTS WILL THEN BE SERVED IN THE PARISH HALL. ALL ARE WELCOME!