Parents, pupils and friends of one of London’s most prominent schools crowded into Westminster Cathedral last month for a Mass to celebrate the career of their former headmaster, who retired after last summer term.
Michael Gormally had been with the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in Kensington for three decades, starting as a trainee teacher back in 1981. Mr Gormally, a skilled linguist, taught French and Latin.
It was his predecessor in the headship, Anthony (now Fr) Pellegrini, who recognised this young teacher’s ability, leadership and charisma and delegated ever-increasing responsibilities to him.
So it was fitting that the main celebrant of the Mass was Fr Pellegrini, who was joined by 18 concelebrants, some of whom were former pupils as well as Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Mr Gormally was musically gifted himself and during his term as head the reputation the school had established for its outstanding music department flourished.
The Schola Cantorum and the brass ensemble of the school provided a fitting tribute, with music from Widor and Bruckner for the Mass.
The packed congregation was delighted to be able to sing the recently beatified John Henry Newman’s “Praise to the Holiest” among others.
At the end of the Mass, tributes were read out by two of the concelebrating priests who knew him so well, Fr Anthony Pellegrini and the school’s chaplain, Fr Dominic Allain.
They touched upon some of Mr Gormally’s apparently paradoxical qualities.
Although he was “administratively diffuse” he remained remorselessly focused on the best interests of his pupils. Above all, it was his devotion to the Catholic Church which stood out.
When families came to open evenings at the school Mr Gormally emphasised that the primary function of the school was to act as a partner with parents in helping their children to cherish and nurture the most precious gift they had given them: the Catholic faith.