FR Graham Gatehouse has been “part of the family” in Nambour parish for 20 years and now he’s moving on as he retires in his 50th year of priesthood.
Fr Gatehouse celebrated his final Masses as parish priest at St Joseph’s on the weekend of January 2 and 3.
John McGowan, thanking Fr Gatehouse on behalf of parishioners, said he would be “sadly missed but always remembered in our prayers”.
“We would like to acknowledge your availability, kindness and sensitivity as our parish priest over the past 20 years,” Mr McGowan said.
In his last newsletter post as parish priest Fr Gatehouse said he was leaving with “deep gratitude to everyone who has made this parish such a wonderful community of faith”.
“You have taught me so much of what it is to be a pastor and priest,” he wrote.
“Not that community life is plain sailing even in the Church, but if we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord (then) together we move forward.
“If we keep our eyes on Christ then we do not have to be fixated about the shortcomings of ourselves or those around us.”
Speaking after finishing at St Joseph’s, Fr Gatehouse said that when he had written that the parishioners had taught him so much, the main lesson he was referring to was “that it’s in community that that’s where the Word of God’s going to be preached, not the one person but by the community living the Gospel …”
“It preaches the Gospel very effectively,” he said.
He said he would miss the community.
“They are wonderful people,” he said.
Fr Gatehouse had previously been parish priest in Caboolture for nine years and in Brighton for nine years.
Parish secretary Cecilia Denny said parishioners had farewelled Fr Gatehouse “with lots of love and well-wishes and blessings and invitations to return as soon as possible”.
Mrs Denny said parishioners were most grateful for Fr Gatehouse’s constant dedication to the people of the parish.
“He was forever available,” she said.
Mrs Denny said he was special for “just being a member of the family …”
“He was like a member of the family to many, many families, and he was just very loved. And the parish was a family to him,” she said
COVID restrictions prevented the parish from having a large farewell.
“So we had about 25 to 30 small gatherings with every ministry, every parish group … like the finance committee, the counting teams, the cleaning teams …,” Mrs Denny said.
“Everyone got their little moment when there was only probably a dozen people at each gathering, which actually in a roundabout way turned out to be a positive, because everyone got one-on-one time with (Fr Gatehouse).”
Fr Odinaka Nwadike, previously associate pastor at St Stephen’s Cathedral, is St Joseph’s new parish priest.
In his statement to the parish, Fr Gatehouse said Fr Nwadike would bring a new energy and a renewed vision.
“I pray that the Holy Spirit rest on him as he takes up the ministry here,” he said.
“I pray too that the Spirit may continue to inspire all in the parish in the years ahead.
“May a new year and a new parish priest bring an abundance of blessings on the parish.”