“FR Carmel, a whole generation of friars owe you their thanks.”
Australian Capuchin provincial Fr Gary Devery with these words summed up the extraordinary contribution made by Fr Carmel Flora since his arrival in Wynnum from his home province of Detroit, United States, in 1969.
The 86-year-old Capuchin, about to return to his home province, was appropriately farewelled from the Nazareth House chapel in Wynnum on Brisbane’s bayside where he had spent at least 30 of his 43 years in Australia.
Bishop Joseph Oudeman, principal celebrant at the Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for the service of Fr Flora on October 11, in his homily spoke of a close connection to his fellow Capuchin.
“I’m tearing up a bit at having to say goodbye to Carmel,” he told those at the Mass, among them priests who had once been novices under Fr Flora’s direction at the St Laurence Mon-astery, Wynnum.
“But the time has come for us to say thank you to our brother and our priest Fr Carmel.
“I was ordained three years when Fr Carmel arrived in 1969.
“He became a novice master in 1970 at Wynnum.
“Two of these former novices are present – Fr John Cooper and Fr Julian Messina – both who became provincials.”
Fr Flora was recognised for his 66 “dedicated years” as a Capuchin and his nearly 60 years as a priest.
During this time, he became the Australian Capuchins’ longest-serving provincial.
“Fr Carmel will celebrate his diamond jubilee in his home province of Detroit next year,” Bishop Oudeman said.
“He has worked tirelessly in his ministry as a spiritual director and chaplain to the Third Order of St Francis, to the Sisters of Nazareth and to the elderly at Nazareth House … indeed my own mum and dad.”
Fr Flora was also referred to “as a calm and deeply prayerful presence but one who has known difficult times”.
“He now has only one kidney and also has a pace maker,” Bishop Oudeman said.
“In spite of these health setbacks, Carmel has always bounced back … but this has been happening less and less.
“He now wants to be back with his family and home province after 43 years in Australia.
“We wish him peace at this very special time in his life and hope he will have as many happy memories of his life in Australia as we have of him.”
Fr Devery said the closeness of the bond between Fr Flora and Bishop Oudeman “was beautiful to see”.
“It comes from a bond of fraternal collaboration,” he said.
“Fr Carmel, a whole generation of friars owes you their thanks,” Fr Devery said.
“You were sent here with a mission to animate the order and this you have done with your prayerful life and spiritual guidance.”
Fr Flora was to fly back home to America on October 16 with Fr Devery as his companion.