LONG-serving Brisbane archdiocese staff member Sylvia O’Boyle was farewelled and thanked recently for her significant contribution to the Church.
Ms O’Boyle finished up with the Clergy Support Office last year after decades of service to the archdiocese.
Prior to arriving in November 1982, Ms O’Boyle had worked locally for an accounting and liquidation firm, as well as the Teachers’ Union.
Overseas she had worked for the United States military in Europe on military investigations.
She originally was employed to assist Daryl Peterson at Archdiocesan Services, who needed to take time off to assist a family member injured in an accident.
Mr Peterson was the accountant for Brisbane archdiocese, at that time embracing Archdiocesan Services, the Development Fund and Catholic Education.
Ms O’Boyle soon found it was sometimes a seat-of-the-pants job.
She recalled them sifting through the books of one long-serving, much-loved priest.
Both of their hair turned grey as the priest, who had started so many parishes, had things squirrelled away in multiple accounts and jam jars.
Once a year they would get him to bring in all his bibs and bobs and straighten it out.
Computerisation was also just coming in, with new machines arriving about four weeks after she did.
About that time cheques were still being written by hand and with the actual accounting done in handwritten ledgers and transposed onto the ledger cards monthly.
Luckily she didn’t have to do any of that, as the practice was soon replaced.
Ms O’Boyle said she never had official titles, avoiding them as best she could the whole time she worked in the city.
“I was a sort of a prototype down at the Development Fund as it was somewhat of a man’s domain, but I didn’t worry about those sorts of barriers,” she said.
Ms O’Boyle stayed 17 years before seguing into a role with what became the Clergy Support Office.
She remembered Fr Michael McCarthy (now Bishop of Rockhampton) being in charge and changing the nature of what had been an ad-hoc position for a long time.
It could be seen that the clergy, as a body, were getting older and what stressors were going to come.
Although Ms O’Boyle was a wonderfully capable office worker, she took to this more pastoral role with just as much skill and finesse.
One of the loveliest advances she noted in her time was the development of the care for the clergy by the nurses made available through St Vincent’s Hospital.
Having been present for the uncertainty many priests faced with their own physical frailty, she knew how invaluable it would be.
She recalled with some emotion one of the leading lights in the archdiocese – Fr Morgan Howe – as he lost the power of sight.
“He was still in the presbytery on his own, which was scary, and eventually we had to persuade him he had to retire,” she said.
“I remember going there with the Aged Care Assessment Team and they’d say ‘Well, how do you do this?’, and he’d bravely offer ‘Oh no, I can manage it okay’.
“On the day I picked him up and physically took him to Canossa Home (at Oxley), he quoted that Gospel reading ‘They will put a rope around my waist, and lead me where I do not want to go’.
“That is one thing that really sticks in your mind and makes you very, very aware that you are dealing with human beings.”
For someone who dealt with human beings so ably, the archdiocese owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Ms O’Boyle.