RETIRING priest Fr Frank Lourigan has many accomplishments under his belt, but serving the people of God for 48 years is his proudest achievement.
Quoting from a 1907 song by Billy Murray, Fr Lourigan said the people in parishes and communities completed his priestly ministry.
“As the old song says, ‘A man without a woman is like a ship without a sail’, and a priest without a parish or a community, is a contradiction in terms, it seems to me,” he said.
Next month, the parish priest for the Grovely-Samford and Mitchelton communities for 21 years will call it a day, ending his ministry where his heart always longed to be.
“I always longed to be in a parish, so I’ve been very happy to be here,” Fr Lourigan said.
Fr Lourigan grew up in Alderley, one of five children and the only son of Australian Irish parents, and was a member of the Enoggera parish, entering the seminary in 1962.
The local parish priest, who died of heart failure at 44 – among other clergy in his community – inspired him to enter the priesthood.
“The priests were always part of our family; they would come down for a meal, or concerts that we used to put on, or the girls used to organise and I reluctantly had to perform something,” Fr Lourigan said.
“And so there was a great tradition of a priest being part of our family and I just admired what they were doing, and got hooked into what they did in the parish, more and more, through serving at the altar.”
Fr Lourigan got his first placement in Booval before being posted to Nanago – “my country experience” – then Upper Mount Gravatt and Wilston.
He was also invited to work with an archdiocesan ministry co-ordinating catechism in state schools and supported adult faith education.
At one stage, he was a primary pastoral supporter in the archdiocese for Vietnamese migrants entering Australia between 1979 and 1985.
Following his parish work, Fr Lourigan was selected to be the rector of the Queensland seminary, for what he called “an unusual experience”.
“I wasn’t from an academic background, I was (from a) more pastoral background,” he said.
“That was the option of the bishops in those days, to try and get formators that were involved in multiple dimensions in the life of the Church and I had been privileged enough to have been drawn into the diocesan ministries and had some fairly broad experience in the CCD, the state school catechetics program, adult education, missions, and immigration office for a while.”
After eight years as rector, Fr Lourigan finally found himself back in his element, looking after a large community of three churches including St William’s, Grovely; Sacred Heart, Samford; and Our Lady of Dolours, Mitchelton, plus four Catholic schools.
It is this community he will miss the most when he takes up retirement mid-January.
“Although I’m looking forward to have some space by myself too, but people are the heart of the Church really,” Fr Lourigan said.
“It doesn’t make any sense without working with people or for people.
“Even in diocesan jobs, you’re still working to make parishes come alive, and seminary jobs, same thing.”
Former Grovely, Mitchelton and Samford parish secretary Sue Skehan will remember Fr Lourigan as a man with a “great love of God’s battlers”.
“He was always ready to the take the time to sit and talk to them no matter how many other things were waiting for his attention,” Ms Skehan said. “He is a true pastor.”
After several send-offs and a farewell Mass on December 16, Fr Lourigan will retire on the North Coast and will take up supply work in parishes.
He said his successor at the Grovely, Mitchelton and Samford parish Fr Nigel Sequeira has offered an open-door policy in the community.
“I told him I’m not signing up for anything until I’ve had a bit of a break,” Fr Lourigan laughed.