Tribute paid to Cambridge priest Fr Sandy Phelps

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Tribute paid to Cambridge priest Fr Sandy Phelps

Cambridge priest Rev Fr Arthur (Sandy) Phelps, known for his uncompromising love of God and the Catholic Church, has died at the age of 95. Mgr Eug£ne Harkness pays tribute.

Sandy was born on 6 September 1921 in New York City and baptised on 23 October, 1921 as an Episcopalian. His father, Arthur Korth, was a first generation American whose parents were German. His mother was the daughter of Franz von Rottenberg and Marian Phelps.

His maternal grandmother, Marian, was the daughter of the American ambassador to Germany and his maternal grandfather, Franz von Rottenberg had a very distinguished career in the German government under Bismarck but retired to become Rector of Bonn University before the outbreak of World War I.

Sandy spent his early years in fashionable parts of America, but when his parents divorced the ensuing scandal lead his motherto leave for Europe andshe settled in Bournemouth. She subsequently reverted to using her mother's maiden name and also changed the surnames of her two sons Arthur (Sandy) and William to Phelps.

Sandy's education started at his prep school St Wulframs, then Sherborne, ending-up at Arosa in Switzerland. After the war he went up to Sidney Sussex, Cambridge to read theology with a view to becoming an Anglican clergyman, but conversion to the Catholic faith changed the direction of his life.

He was accepted for the Diocese of Portsmouth and was sent to The Beda College, Rome. He was ordained for Portsmouth Diocese on 26 March 1955 and had some parish assignments there.

An hiatus in his diocesan ministry took place and he went off to spend some time in Switzerland at a monastic hermitage of the Camaldulense Order. Eventually he returned to a live in England and made his home in the Diocese of East Anglia where Bishop Peter Smith permitted him to function in a minor capacity.

Devotion to Our Lady and The Cenacle movement figured large in his life along with that to the Divine Mercy. These elements formed his future years as a priest in Cambridge and led him to an active and much cherished life at St Philip Howard Parish.

He was fortified by the rites of the Church on the Feast of St Philip Howard (19 October) and then went into a coma. He died on the Feast of Pope St John Paul II the promoter of The Divine Mercy on 22 October, quietly and surrounded by parishioners just before the 3 o'clock prayer.

He will be remembered for his humility, his brilliant mind, his enjoyment of music, both sacred and secular, but most of all for his uncompromising love of God and the Catholic Church which manifested itself daily. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.