Bishop Emeritus Anthony ‘Tony’ Hampden Dickson was the only true prophet among all the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) bishops, a prophet who dared to speak truth even when it offended others, but never did it in a way that put others down.
So said Bishop Clyde Harvey of St Georges-in-Grenada in his tribute at the Funeral Mass of Bishop Dickson, the first bishop of Bridgetown- Kingstown Monday, December 12 at the St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Bishop Dickson passed away at the Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, Tuesday, November 29. He was 87 years.
Bishop Harvey commented he would not be “fair” to Bishop Dickson, his spiritual director for the last five years, if he did not mention the late bishop suffered a lot at the hands of the Church.
“And we will be hypocrites if we did not understand that this little man, daring to speak truth to power, daring to dream dreams of what we might be as a Caribbean people…”
Referring to Bishop Dickson’s pastoral letter on ecology, Bishop Harvey underscored that Bishop Dickson was the first Catholic bishop in the world to deal with the issue of ecology and climate change as a Christian imperative.
“Tony was very clear [that] this is part of the gospel, and we can’t run away from it,” Bishop Harvey said.
Also delivering tributes were his three successors: Archbishop Emeritus Robert Rivas OP who served as Apostolic Administrator of Bridgetown; Archbishop Jason Gordon of Port of Spain; and current Bishop Neil Scantlebury of Bridgetown, the main celebrant at the Funeral Mass.
Archbishop Gordon recalled the “wonderful and varied” conversations they shared over the years. According to Archbishop Gordon, Bishop Dickson had a “real burning passion” for the environment and social justice.
“That was the genius of the man. He pushed us as Church into frontiers that many were shy to enter into or promote.”
Long before Pope Francis spoke on synodality, Bishop Dickson governed the diocese in a synodal way “and really took us places before the Church really made these things mainstream,” the Archbishop said.
In his homily, Vicar General Fr Clement Paul said he is “precisely” the priest he is today because of Bishop Dickson. He explained that the liturgical texts warn against preaching a eulogy.
“Hopefully this is a homily which reflects on the readings, but it wouldn’t make no sense to talk about the readings because all through the readings we hear about this man Anthony Hampden Dickson.”
Bishop Dickson, Fr Paul said, was virtuous, righteous, small in stature, big in voice and laughter and big in graciousness, goodness, and holiness.
Fr Paul shared the biggest tribute faithful can pay to Bishop Dickson is to love God as much as they could. “…because his life was a sermon. He preached not only in words, he preached by his life, to love God, to love the Church with its pain, mud and muck. And he did love the Church….if anybody knows the pain of Gethsemane, if anybody knows the pain of Jesus when He heard the words ‘crucify Him’, it was this little colossus, this giant of a man.”
Born in Jamaica, Bishop Dickson was ordained priest for the Kingston diocese February 11, 1962. He was appointed Bishop of Bridgetown-Kingstown October 19, 1970 and ordained bishop in 1971. He resigned as Bishop of Bridgetown in 1995 due to poor health. His successor was Bishop Malcolm Galt CSSp.
From 1996 to 2000, he lectured, offered spiritual direction to and participated in the formation of students preparing for the priesthood at St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs Seminary, Tunapuna, Trinidad.
The Funeral Mass can be viewed: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXPhtDaBA7c