Canon Dun Gwann Sladden (1918 – 1986):
The thirteenth Arch
Gwanni was born in Senglea on
September 1918. On
the 11th August
1946 he was
ordained as a priest by the Arch Bishop Michael Gonzi in the Cathedral
at Mdina. During his first years as a priest he used to teach English at
the Arch Bishop’s Seminary of Malta where for some time he was also the
Vice Rector and Prefect. He also taught at the colleges of St Aloysius
and St Edwards.
As a young priest he had the Catholic Action very
closed to his heart and he was the Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Men
and Young Men sections in Senglea’s branch of the Catholic Action.
He was also the Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Central section of the
Youth movement of the Catholic Action. As from the 17th
December 1966, when Arch Bishop Gonzi appointed Canon Gwann Sladden as the
thirteenth Arch priest of Senglea he dedicated himself wholly to the work in the
parish. This was the time of new developments in the church following the second
Vatican Council. On many occasions he did not beat about the bush about the need
of a better spiritual life in Senglea. As the spiritual pastor of the city Canon
Sladden was worried that there was not enough Christian teaching in Senglea and
some could be mislaid by false teachings. He always insisted, especially with
the young, about the importance of religious groups such as the MUSEUM, the
Legion of Mary and the Catholic Action.
Many still recall Arch priest Sladden as l-Arcipriet
tal-Warda (the Arch priest of the Rose). He got this reputation because he
strove a lot so that on the 50th
Anniversary of the crowning of the statue of Marija Bambina in 1971, a golden
rose should be placed at the foot of the statue in remembrance. This plan saw
its fulfillment during a ceremony held on
the 4th September 1971
in the Basilica and the rose was placed at Our Lady’s feet by Cardinal Giacomo
Lercaro. Another ambitious project started by Arch priest Sladden was he wished
that a documented history of the parish of Senglea be compiled. The first volume
of this history, which was in the hands of Friar Alessandru Bonnici OFM Conv.
was published in 1981, the year when the church
of Senglea was
celebrating its four hundred years since it was made a parish.
By June 1984 Arch priest Sladden was not in good health.
He had been coming in and out of hospital and he even spent some time in the
Intensive Treatment Unit. On the 5th
March 1985 he relinquished his post as Arch priest.
He had a terrible attack and could not possibly continue his pastoral work. In
July 1985 he was nominated as Honorary Monsignor of the Cathedral of Malta. Mons
Sladden spent some months in the Home for the Clergy at Birkirkara and died aged
67, on the 3rd
April 1986 at St Luke’s Hospital. On the following
day his remains were taken to the church of
St Philip so that the
people could pay him their last respect. A corteo was held from St Philip to the
Saturday 5th April 1986
where Mass was concelebrated by one hundred and eight priests. He was later
interned at the Addolorata
Cemetery in Paola