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Brisbane grandfather celebrates 25 years in the priesthood

Brisbane priests celebrating jubilees

Centuries of service: Bishop Ken Howell, Deacon Tom Zaranski, Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Bishop Brian Finnigan after the Mass for Brisbane priests celebrating jubilees (from left) Fr James O’Donoghue (25 years), Oblate Father Brian Harris (25 years), Fr Frank Lourigan (50 years), Fr Paul Rooney (50 years), Fr Ron Mollison (50 years) and Fr Pat Stratford (60 years). Photo: Emilie Ng

PRIESTS have been known to invite their mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers to their priestly jubilee Mass, but alongside Fr Brian Harris were his children and grandchildren.

The Oblate priest, who has six children, 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, joined the priesthood in 1987 when he was 55.

“I was married and had a family, but my wife died,” Fr Harris said.

He had previously tried to enter the Oblates of Mary Immaculate after feeling a calling to the priesthood in his home parish, St Mary’s, Ipswich, but discerned with several priests that it wasn’t the right time.

He subsequently married his wife on October 31, 1959, and had six children.

The family moved around Queensland before settling in Rockhampton for 25 years.

In 1980 Fr Harris’ wife was diagnosed with cancer and died on October 17, 1981.

“When my wife died I knew I still had a vocation,” Fr Harris said.

In 1987, when Fr Harris’ youngest son was nearly 18, he spent time in the Oblates at Eagle Junction before entering the pre-novitiate in 1989.

“I’ve always had a devotion to Mary and Mary Immaculate,” he said. “It was just logical afterwards I went back and asked to join again.

“They said, ‘Yes’.”

Fr Harris was ordained a priest on December 7, 1993.

During his 25 years as a priest, Fr Harris has worked in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and New Zealand but is now back in Brisbane with the Burpengary Oblates.

“I’ve been to parishes around Australia, I’ve been a hospital chaplain, I’ve been a novice master. So God’s been good.”

The 84-year-old is one of 12 priests celebrating jubilee years in Brisbane.

“It’s been a very spiritual journey for me,” Fr Harris said. “It’s been tough at times of course and I’ve had a lot of health issues but it’s a beautiful vocation to have.

“And the love of people – I have a whole lot of parishioners here.”

Fr Harris joined his fellow jubilarians for a Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral on June 27, attended by two of his children and two grandchildren.

Fr Paul Rooney with his 100-year-old mother

Father’s mother: Golden jubilarian Fr Paul Rooney with his 100-year-old mother Joan Rooney outside St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane, after a Mass celebrating the jubilees of priests in the archdiocese. Photo: Emilie Ng

Fellow jubilarian Fr Paul Rooney also welcomed a special family member to the Mass – his mother Joan Rooney, who turned 100 on July 6.

“She was fifty when I was ordained,” Fr Rooney said.

The pair were planning a combined Mass at St William’s parish, Grovely, on July 8.

Fr Rooney said his ordination was “a completion” of his calling to the priesthood.

“It was something I wanted ever since I was a little boy,” he said. “We were what you call a strong Catholic family.

“My sister is a Carmelite nun and Mum and Dad had communion very regularly.”

The 74-year-old studied in the seminary with fellow golden jubilarians Fr Peter Grice, Fr Ron Mollison, Fr Frank Lourigan and Rockhampton priest Fr Barry O’Donohue.

“I’m feeling grateful to God,” Fr Rooney said.

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