By Emilie Ng
FR Bill McCarthy always put God’s people first, even until his last breath.
After suffering more than 10 years of serious illness caused by an accident at an Indooroopilly parish working bee which led to a severe foot infection, Fr McCarthy was brought to eternal rest on July 18.
His last moments were with his sisters and carers Elizabeth “Libby” and Kathlyn McCarthy at the Mater Private Hospital.
Fr McCarthy’s funeral was held on Friday, July 25, at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane.
Days before his death and following a farewell and thanksgiving Mass at his last parish, Holy Family, Indooroopilly, Fr McCarthy told The Catholic Leader that he put his whole life into his priestly ministry.
“I’ve given my whole life, every bit of it,” Fr McCarthy said on Monday, July 14.
“I’m very happy with everything I’ve done.”
Libby McCarthy said the legacy he would leave was his ability to forget his own needs and be present to others.
“He had an incredible amount of pain, and he had a lot of crosses, but he never complained,” she said.
Fr McCarthy was always faithful to his parishioners.
“He was in hospital in January, and we would take him out for all the three Masses every Sunday (at Indooroopilly),” Miss McCarthy said.
Fr McCarthy was awarded the Flood Hero Award for opening the Holy Family Church and parish hall to victims of the 2011 floods in the weeks following the disaster.
Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey visited Holy Family Parish during the flood relief, which helped hundreds of parishioners and locals in the community, and told Fr McCarthy, “You have really made this God’s house”.
Parishioner Brian Stewart, who gave a speech at Fr McCarthy’s farewell on July 13, said the priest was a great entrepreneur, a skill that helped in making the parish an official state relief centre during the 2011 floods.
“He will be organising things up there for sure,” Mr Stewart said.
Close friend Fr Jim Smith said Fr McCarthy had “the capacity to gather people around him and move mountains”.
Fr Smith administered the last rites to Fr McCarthy weeks before his death.
He and Fr McCarthy were children when they first met in Ipswich parish, often talking after Saturday-morning Mass.
Fr Smith said Fr McCarthy was “absolutely heroic in his illness”.
Recalling a conversation where Fr McCarthy thanked his friend for his kindness over the past few months, Fr Smith responded, “Nobody’s been more kind and generous than you, Bill”.
“People loved him. He had a great capacity to touch people’s hearts,” Fr Smith said.
Fr McCarthy was an avid supporter of the Catholic Women’s League in Brisbane.
He was born in Ipswich on December 8, 1946, and was the third of four children and the only son of Pat and Mick McCarthy.
Mick McCarthy was a police officer and transferred to various cities across Queensland.
Consequently, Fr McCarthy and his sisters received their Catholic education in schools across the state.
A deep desire to help others for Christ moved Fr McCarthy to choose the priesthood.
Fr McCarthy entered the seminary on February 14, 1966, with 39 other men, making their class the largest to enter the seminary after World War II.
He was ordained for Brisbane archdiocese on August 9, 1972.
Between 1972 and 1976, Fr McCarthy ministered at Our Lady of Lourdes, Sunnybank, and was known for leading the archdiocese’s most vibrant youth group at the time.
He then moved to Scarborough until 1983, was parish priest at Aspley until 1986, and then transferred to Clayfield until 1987.
Fr McCarthy was appointed chaplain at St Rita’s College from 2004, and remained chaplain until his death.
Deputy principal for studies at the college Cathy O’Kane said Fr McCarthy showed courage “in his acceptance of his various health issues (and) his refusal to allow these issues to dictate how he would live and work”.
“Fr Bill had been in hospital just days or weeks before one of our Eucharistic celebrations, when another person would have offered their apologies due to ill health, but not Fr Bill,” Mrs O’Kane said.
“As a community we have been blessed to have had Fr Bill as part of our lives for the past decade in his special role as our college chaplain.
“For us, Fr Bill has been a wonderful example of a person who gave his life to God and ensured that God’s message of love was lived out by the way he treated all those to whom he ministered.”
Fr McCarthy spent time at Stanley River parish before the Banyo-Nundah parish received him as their parish priest between 1988 and 2000.
He spent several months to one year at parishes in Darra, Inala and Booval before becoming administrator at Indooroopilly.
He officially retired from his role the week he died.