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Much-loved priest Fr John Newman mourned by Cairns Catholic community

Fr John Newman

Vale: Fr John Newman.

THE Cairns Catholic community has mourned the loss of well-known and much-loved priest Fr John Newman.

Fr Newman had served the diocese for more than 50 years in priestly ministry.

His long standing commitment to his many chaplaincy appointments saw him heavily involved as chaplain to both Calvary and Cairns Base hospitals, director of both Catholic Mission and Vocations, St Augustine’s College, the Army Reserve, Queensland Police Service, Tableland Army Cadets, honorary Chaplain to the RSL and Vietnam Veterans.

Acting Queensland police chief superintendent Brett Scheafferius said, “Fr John felt that his life had been enriched through being a police chaplain.”

Fr Newman’s great regard for his army chaplaincy was remembered by retired Major Les Beck.

“Whether in the back of an APC, skimming the trees in an Iroquois helicopter or more often trudging the rain soaked trails of some NQ rainforest, that is where he felt he belonged – in the trenches and with the soldiers,” he said.

Although the Cairns Diocese and the Tablelands in particular became home for Fr Newman’s nephew, John, said the priest liked to be with people and he was greatly loved by the people he met in his life.

“He was respected as a man and a priest,” he said. “He had a passionate hunger for his faith and was faithful in his duty as a priest.”

John was born in Ipswich, his parents, Michael and Evelyn, reared six boys and three girls.

He came to Pius XII Seminary, Banyo from an interesting background.

Carpentry was the family trade in which he was skilled.

He was familiar with stock work and his musical talents were well renowned.

John responded to an invitation from Bishop Thomas Cahill while as a seminarian to serve in the Cairns Diocese.

His appointments in Cairns saw him placed at St Monica’s Cathedral, Thursday Island, Mossman and Atherton.

After many years as parish priest of Atherton and retiring there “in the garden of Eden” memories abound of his priestly ministry in that parish.

He was remembered for his great wisdom in decisions, words, actions and plans.

Bishop Foley wrote: “So we give thanks to God for the gift John has been to so many: a fine (stock)man, a good shepherd and a conscientious worker in so many areas of priestly life and service.”

Catholic Mission deputy national director Peter Gates said

Fr Newman was the diocesan director of Catholic Mission, which was known as the Pontifical Mission Societies, during the 28 years he held this role in Cairns.

“His many years of service was testimony to his unwavering commitment to the work of mission both locally and for the world,” he said.

“Fr John took on this role with a steady surety and goodwill that seemed to be his way –  a way that was profoundly missionary and sure in faith.

“He was quietly confident in sharing that faith with others, both near, and in this work of Catholic Mission ‘to the ends of the earth’.

“For those at Catholic Mission who had the pleasure to know Fr John they will remember his hospitality, clever wit and of course his extraordinary musical gift of playing some family favourites on a simple piece of garden hose.

“He was generous of heart in such ways that brought great delight, fun and joy to a gathering.

“Just as Fr John joined in this great work that others had laboured for over many years, those who followed Fr John were left a blessed legacy due to his dedicated missionary efforts.

“As Pope Francis has challenged us all, Fr John truly in his own unique way played his part in this ‘immense work of mission’… God’s mission.

“Our grateful thanks and memory for Fr John, a man of mission.”

Fr Newman died on January 22 and was laid to rest on February 1.

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