BRISBANE received more than toys and candy canes for Christmas 1956; Irish-born Fr Joseph Francis Vianney Flannery arrived on Christmas Eve as a young priest in a foreign land and was sent straight to St Stephen’s Cathedral.
He spent his first day in Brisbane’s summer heat in the confessional, and served at the cathedral all day until midnight Mass.
This determination of service was characteristic of Fr Flannery.
He died on November 27, and was remembered as a great pastor and dear friend.
“Fr Joe’s definite ideas formed his mission as a priest,” Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell said at a memorial Mass.
“While he was intent on serving Christ, he understood that this meant holding the people Christ had entrusted to him always within his care.
“Those who have known him for all these years at Everton Park, and in East Brisbane, and a number of other places, would (I’m sure) look beyond his human imperfections, to see that his heart was firmly fixed on what he was ordained for.
“In the very best sense of the words, Joe Flannery was an ‘old world’ type of Irish priest, but there was nothing old world in his attention to God’s people and ensuring that the Mass and sacraments were celebrated, and that the people were nourished by Christ through the ministry of their priest.”
Bishop Howell said Fr Flannery lived a full life in two lands, but “now there is a homeland beyond Ireland and Brisbane that he has longed to find”.
“The wheat grain has fallen on the ground and died through his life of sacrifice, hard work, compassion and forbearance,” Bishop Howell said, referencing the Gospel reading (John 12:23-26).
“Now is the time for the harvest, where the fruits of the offering of his life to Christ in a distant land are both seen and unseen.
“We will never know the full extent of what he has given and who has received from this offering of self. Christ knows, therefore we give Joseph over to his merciful embrace.”
Fr Flannery was one of three children born to John Flannery and Mary O’Leary.
He schooled with the Christian Brothers in County Tipperary and studied at the Waterford Seminary in the Waterford and Lismore diocese, Ireland.
After he was ordained he was incardinated into the Brisbane archdiocese on December 29, 1956.
His first appointment in Brisbane archdiocese was as an assistant priest at St Stephen’s Cathedral from December 25, 1956, to January 1, 1960.
Following this, Fr Flannery went on to serve as an assistant priest and administrator in a number of parishes, with his first appointment as a parish priest beginning at St Benedict’s, East Brisbane, in April 1980.
He went on to become parish priest at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Everton Park, and served there for almost 40 years.
In a remembrance piece, Rosalie Lewis said her family and Fr Flannery were very close and her parents treated him like a son.
“To my father’s delight he (Fr Flannery) absolutely loved technology and the pair of them would fiddle with every gadget they found,” she said. “He was always looking for items to repair.
“The age of computers was an absolute delight for him.”
Mrs Lewis said he was over for Christmas lunch almost every year and officiated at her wedding and the weddings of her two sons, and baptised her grandchildren.
“Father Joe has been an inspiration to so many,” she said. “He helped and supported countless numbers as he carried out his priestly duties.
“We are all the better to have known him.”
She said she was at his first Mass in Brisbane, at Gregory Terrace almost 63 years ago, and was honoured to be at the memorial Mass to celebrate his life.