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Father Paul's retirement

A BRIEF MESSAGE from Fr Paul and June We do want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped to make our final Sunday such a happy and memorable occasion for the whole parish family. We are so grateful too, for your wonderful gifts, cards and good wishes. We shall write more fully when we get to Kingham. With our love, Fr Paul and June

Speech for Fr Paul and June’s leaving ‘do’ - 11 April 2010 - by Martin Taylor - Church Warden

Bishop, Rev’d Fr’s, S. Francis family and Friends,

Today is a very special day; in many ways a very sad one, but also it should be seen as a happy one too.

S. Francis Church was consecrated as a place of worship on 4th October 1930, 80 years ago and at the direction of our benefactor, Mrs Helen Reckitt, who amongst other conditions stipulated, ‘that the full Catholic faith should be taught’. To this day that condition has been adhered to, and for over a quarter of the time that a worshipping community has been here - Fr Paul has been the parish priest and has faithfully adhered to that condition - in the footsteps of his priestly predecessors.

That I think, you will agree, is quite a remarkable achievement! It is more than a quarter of a century’s ministry to us here.

During this time Fr Paul has celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his ordination, though he let that one go by quietly and also his Silver Jubilee of being our parish priest; that was a very happy day and celebration.

In an age when so many aspects of life can be termed as, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ and where there is built in obsolescence, in so many of the day to day elements of life, not least in the wider Church of today, Fr Paul, in his long ministry here at S. Francis, has provided a great sense of stability for us all.

That stability has given us the assurance that the Church’s true teaching is unchangeable.

There is the observation by the irreverent that being a parish priest is a ‘one day a week job’! Far from being a being a job, his priesthood and ministry is a vocation and a strong and enduring vocation at that! It is a vocation that has manifested itself in many ways here at S. Francis.

Fr Paul has had to minister to a whole range of believers and unbelievers, and to a diverse church family, who hold a variety of views and opinions; he has had to balance his approach to all with the aim of proclaiming the Gospel - without offending people’s sensitivities - and winning souls for Christ.

As a parish priest, he has displayed great tact in addressing and dealing with a whole range of diverse issues affecting the Church generally and this parish church in particular. He has brought to bear his gifts to many of us at differing times:

  • his kindness – in times of need
  • his acceptance of all – who seek his help
  • his compassion – in times of bereavement
  • his encouragement - in times of struggle
  • his charity – in the times, when we may have wronged him
  • his patience – when dealing with unresolved issues
  • his wise counsel - when things are not going as we would want
  • his understanding of the human condition - as a confessor
  • his ability to empathise - and share one’s experiences
  • his spiritual direction – when struggling with fundamental issues of faith and everyday living
  • and not least his prayerfulness which has been available to us all

In listing those gifts, it is not to say that the past 27+ years have not been without challenges for him.

Not least, as parish priest he has had to face the increasing marginalisation of Christianity in society as a whole, where priests are no longer respected as once they were and the Church trying to re-invent itself and change long held traditions, beliefs, faith and order.

Fr Paul has stood firm for S. Francis Church, and not just for S. Francis, but because he believes!

For priests like Fr Paul, this must be, and I am sure it is, a very difficult daily challenge. None the less Fr Paul has maintained close and personal relationships with those with whom he does not agree with theologically.

His qualities as a priest are and have been recognised by those in authority, and, he has been for many years an Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester. Additionally, the Bishop of Winchester made him an Honary Canon at a time when preferment’s for ‘traditional’ priests are rare; both these positions are well deserved and are a mark of the high esteem in which he is held.

He is held in high esteem, not only in the church, but in other areas of parish life; not least in the work he has done with the schools in the parish; encouraging links with S. Francis; using the church for school concerts, assemblies, carol services and school visits. Lift Off has also been a very special, if tiring event over many years that he has encouraged and supported.

Being a priest in one parish for 27+ years brings a degree of stability for the parish, but it can especially, for a parish priest, create real and serious challenges to his ministry. I am sure Fr Paul would not disagree with that?

The challenge is to remain ‘fresh’ and ‘innovative’ in spreading the Gospel and ministering to people and there will have been times of aridity and isolation; but through prayer and a deep seated faith, which is evident to us all, you have been able to work through such times.

Being a parish priest can also be a lonely position to be in; at the centre of events within the parish; a priest and friend to all but, denied having special and personal friendships within S. Francis itself - which all the rest of us have; a fact compounded by there being very few likeminded priests locally to whom he could turn for support.

However, that is until he married June! If ever there was a ‘soul mate'!

We cannot talk about Fr Paul without mentioning June and recognising her role within the clergy house and the S. Francis Church family and her importance to Fr Paul.

Quite simply she is ‘Brick’!

June’s role within the church is often hidden and she does jobs that we do not know about, but we will when she leaves! She has real and genuine interest in people and what is happening to them and provides encouragement and personal support to people in times of need; this a is a very special sort of ministry that compliments Fr Paul’s.

June has a great sense of fun and gaiety which expresses itself in many ways, both public and personal. She has a friendliness and generosity that is freely given and, many can vouch for this, she has a great sense of humour!

I called her a brick earlier, more accurately; I should have called her a ‘ROCK’, a rock to this church and certainly a rock to Fr Paul.

Fr Paul and June, you are both very much at the centre of S. Francis church family life; almost part of the fabric of the building (and many will still see you sitting in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in contemplation long after you have gone!).

We shall miss you but we recognise that the time has come for you to close the very long chapter of your lives here at S. Francis and the time is right for you both to start the next chapter of your lives and continue your spiritual journey in another place.

From us all, a sincere thank you for all you you have done for us here over the past 27+ years, both for the parish and the S. Francis family; you have touched many people’s lives in that time; perhaps more than - if I may say so - than you may realise or would want to accept!

On behalf of everyone here and those who could not be here today, a sincere and heartfelt thanks to you both; it is not time to say goodbye; that is too final, but just to say ADIEU to you both

You leave with our love and prayers. God Bless and guide you both.

Speech for Fr Paul and June’s leaving ‘do’ - 11 April 2010 - by Barbara Geatrell - Church Warden

Fr Paul and June you are no doubt wondering how there can be anything to say following Martin’s all encompassing speech.

However, you are no doubt aware that I have been badgering members of the congregation to write down what they have been saying for the last few months so that the thoughts could be brought together in a card and taken away by you.

The overall comment expressed both in the card and verbally is how much you both will be missed

Quote:- ‘Thank you for everything, words cannot express how much you will be missed’

Fr Paul, Martin has spoken of your kindness, ability to empathise and compassion and this is reiterated time and time again by members of the congregation

Quote:- ‘thank you for being a patient piece of blotting paper over the years’
‘thank you for many years of ministry to us and our family and all your kindness’
‘thank you for all the time you have given to me’
‘thank you for your caring’

Another recurring theme is that of your Spiritual guidance and prayerfulness; your ‘ministry’. The word ‘ministry’ is a very broad term:- it includes the proclamation of God’s Word, service to God’s people, celebration of the sacraments, etc.

Quote:- ‘ a sincere thank you for your long ministry to S. Francis and particularly your support, friendship and guidance’
‘thank you for all your care and guidance’
‘thank you for your spiritual advice and friendship’
‘thank you for your spiritual leadership’

June, Martin refers to you as a ‘rock’ both to this church and to Fr Paul. This is acknowledged in the expressed comments when it is said time and time again how much you both will be missed.

Quote:- ‘we will miss you both’; ‘I shall miss you both’
‘thank you both for the support and love you have shown us over the years’

What of the future?

Quote:- ‘your retirement is another door opening. Enjoy it all’
‘we wish you a long and busy retirement’
‘wishing you both every happiness in your retirement’

Perhaps the final words for now should be:-

‘We’ll pray for you please continue to pray for us’

Click here to read Bishop Edwin's thoughts about Fr. Paul's retirement