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One of Brisbane’s ‘great priests’

Fr Jack Rosenskjar.

Vale: Fr Jack Rosenskjar.

This is the homily of Fr Ray Kearney at the funeral Mass of Fr Jack Rosenskjar, Brisbane archdiocese’s oldest priest, at St Stephen’s Cathedral on October 22.

IN this funeral liturgy we will pay our respects to Fr Jack Rosenskjar.

We will hand him back to God and we will proclaim our faith.

Like all of us, Jack Rosenskjar’s origin was in the creative love of God.

He was God’s gift to his parents and family and for many years he was God’s gift to the local church of Brisbane, more specifically to the parishioners of Mt Gravatt for so many years.

What a wonderful gift he was – one of the truly great priests of this archdiocese.

He was on the seminary staff as bursar for a little while, but he was not keen on that and was relieved when he was made an army chaplain and went to serve in New Guinea.

While I was with him I saw the sweat-stained vestments the troops had made for him out of parachute material.

He treasured those vestments.

He walked in the heat of New Guinea, saying Mass for the soldiers.

Celebrating Mass for people was his passion as well as getting the non-practising to start going to Mass again.

While I was at Sunnybank, Jack came for a funeral and after the funeral stayed for quite a time yarning in the presbytery.

I said to him: “Jack you never spoke much about the war” and then he told me this story.

One day in New Guinea, walking back to the area where they were to have lunch, he said to the soldier with him “sit down while I go and get the meals”.

“No,” the solider said. “You sit down and I’ll get the meals.”

On the way to the lunch where the meals were a sniper shot the soldier through the head. I guess you don’t speak about those experiences too often.

I think I was Fr Rosenskjar’s second assistant at Mt Gravatt. Fr Kev Aspinall was the first and many others were fortunate to come after us.  It was my first appointment and a wonderful experience to spend two years with Jack Rosenskjar.

He had an enormous influence on me and I still do things today I learnt from Jack.

He was a very gifted parish priest.

It was an enormous parish – six churches and 13 Masses on a Sunday.

No parish office or secretary in those days.

Jack wrote the notices on Saturday night and then the next day Jack and the rest of us had difficulty reading them as he had terrible handwriting.

Fr Tom Boland once said that one of the characteristics of the priesthood in Queensland was pastoral intimacy.

This was certainly true of Fr Rosenskjar.

He visited the homes of his parishioners year after year and knew them intimately.

During my time at Mt Gravatt we visited more than 1000 homes every year.

Jack was a gifted evangelist especially to the non-practising in the parish.

His method is just as valid today.

All that has changed is our way of visiting.

When I went back to the seminary to teach the first class, in each subject was always on the importance of parish visitation.  

I was too young at the time to fully realise what great stress there was for Fr Jack to financially cope with such a quickly growing parish.

The difficulty of providing two primary schools and paying for the needs of the parish would have caused him a great deal of stress.

Another quality that Jack had that impressed me greatly was that I don’t think he had a jealous bone in his body.

If a family wanted someone else to do a wedding or a baptism he was delighted and went out of his way to make them welcome.

I left Mt Gravatt thinking I would like to be like Jack and I have tried to be all my life.

I would like to thank Sr Kari Hatherall for the way she has cared for Fr Jack.

She has been very understanding, she cared for him with cheerful, tender care.

The time has come to hand that gift back to God.

We hand Jack back to God with joy, great trust and faith – for God’s hands are very safe.

They are very gentle and forgiving.

The other aspect of this celebration which is the most important is the proclaiming of our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus our brother, the first one of us to take his place fully in the destiny that is ours.

Because of Jesus we are full of faith that our destiny is to share in God’s life in Heaven.

We have no doubt that death is not the end but the gateway to life with God.

The Gospel contains one of my favourite images – “happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”.

“I tell you solemnly he will put on an apron, sit them down at the table and wait on them.”

What a marvellous image – “He will put on an apron, sit them down at the table and wait on them”.

When the master came Fr Jack was truly ready, his lamp well and ready lit with so many years of dedicated service as a gifted pastor of his people.

The master put on an apron, sat Fr Jack down at table and waited on him.

May he rest in peace.

Written by: Staff writers
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