Nine years ago I left Guayaquil in Ecuador to come back to Australia and start again as a parish priest in a new diocese. I had been twenty five years a priest and most of that time had been as a missionary priest in Latin America.
The only reason for leaving was due to serious health issues that made it impossible for me to remain. It broke my heart to leave and I felt that sorrow for a long, long time.
The beautiful people of Manly and Gumdale made me feel very welcome and it has been a joy to me to be part of this wonderful Catholic community. I celebrated my silver jubilee as a priest at Manly and will cherish the memories of these past nine years. Not only is it a beautiful place to live, it is also a place I call home where I have forged great friendships and a deep sense of belonging.
Within six months of being at Manly, I had the privilege of being appointed as parish priest to Birkdale and Manly together. The last eight years have been a time of a great deal of pastoral work and many changes. I love Birkdale parish and will always feel part of this very generous Catholic community that have welcomed me into their homes and hearts. It is a very blessed community of friends and family. I leave with a heavy heart but also one filled with deep gratitude and joyful memories.
Both communities have very generous volunteers who create a parish of spirituality and care. I have witnessed the practical charity of the St Vincent de Paul Society and the warm loving care given to the bereaved by the ladies and gentleman of Birkdale who serve the families after funerals with real compassion. The Rosary group at Manly founded by our dear Sr Teresa PVBM have inspired me with their spirituality and practical charity.
The many people of our parishes who help the care of the sick and home bound is just wonderful. The catechists who serve the sacramental programmes and the generous teachers of our two schools who give of their time and expertise is so admirable. The sacristans who keep our liturgies alive are so loyal and generous. The people of the music ministries are just so important and we are blessed to have their service.
Both our parish councils and finance committees are so kind and generous with their time and expertise and they have forged these communities into vibrant sound parishes. We hand on the baton to a new priest with confidence.
I wish to thank Fr Prem for his generosity and goodness to me and our parishes and to Fr Epati who worked bedside me for eight years. I am extremely grateful to them. It was wonderful to be part of Fr Tom Zaranski's journey to the priesthood. He has been a real blessing for us.
I cannot finish without thanking our two parish Secretaries Lisa and Collette. Without them the parish would not function. They have been loyal generous friends to me and to all of us. Over the years they have achieved a great legacy for our parishes. Their professionalism and generous service can never be repaid. It has been a tremendous privilege to work beside them and I have received so many blessings because of them. Thank you both sincerely.
In conclusion, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to everyone for your acceptance of me and the spiritual gifts you have given me. The love of Christ in the Eucharist and His Word alongside our love for Jesus in His poor, especially in our school that we have established with our sister parish in Metinaro, Timor Leste is reason enough for all of us to celebrate our Catholic faith and joy of being a parish family that makes a real difference in the world.
Ad multos anos and I finish with St Mary MacKillop's words "gratitude is in the memory of the heart" and St John Vianney who said "God is everywhere ready to hear your prayers..remember.. He is here.."
Thank you everyone
God love you