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Pontifical Requiem Mass Celebrated for the Repose of the Soul of Fr Finbarr Walsh
Article and photos by Fr R Cross
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, Emeritus Archbishop Barry James Hickey and Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton and the clergy of Perth paid tribute to Fr Henry Finbarr Walsh (known as Finbarr) on the occasion of his death on Thursday 31 May 2012.
Born in Cork City, County Cork, Ireland on 5 March 1929, he was educated at the Christian Brothers' College, Cork and at All Hallows College Dublin.
Fr Walsh was ordained on 21 June 1953 at All Hallows College for the Archdiocese of Perth, arriving in Perth on 19 November 1953. He was appointed curate at West Perth on the same day.
On 26 February 1954 he was appointed curate at Cottesloe and in 1957 was again appointed curate to St Mary's Cathedral, where in April 1964 he was appointed the Secretary of the Church Office, a position he held for five years.
On 31 July 1969 he was appointed Administrator of the St Mary's Cathedral, becoming the Dean of the Cathedral in 1972.
In 1973 he was appointed the WA coordinator for the International Eucharistic Congress held in Melbourne, Victoria.
On 16 May 1976, Fr Walsh was appointed Parish Priest of the rapidly growing Rockingham Parish where he oversaw the building of Our Lady of Lourdes Church as well as the presbytery and Parish Centre. He was also a strong advocate for the building of Kolbe Catholic College and was the Priest's Representative on the Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia.
In 2007, after many years of dedicated service, Fr Walsh retired to a house in Shoal Water and later transferred to Castledare Retirement Village, where he died last week.
Above: Kerry Carroll places symbols on the coffin of Fr Walsh
Above: John Walsh pays tribute to his brother Fr Finbarr
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen
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Homily for the Pontifical Concelebrated Requiem Mass for Fr Henry Finbarr Walsh 1929 - 2012
Every time we gather as a Catholic community to say farewell to someone who has died, it seems to me that we are doing a number of things.
First of all, of course, we are expressing our sorrow that someone we have cared about, respected, worked with or loved has now gone. I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I express our very sincere condolences to Father Finbarr’s brother John and his wife Claire, who arrived from Ireland yesterday, and to his niece, Felicity, who cared for Fr Finbarr so well in these last few months, and to his family and friends both here and in Ireland. Our prayers are certainly with you all at this difficult time.
We are also remembering all that Fr Finbarr has been for each one of us. For me, of course, as a newcomer to the archdiocese, the story of Fr Finbarr’s life must be learnt from others, from all of you. I do know that Fr Finbarr was born in 1929 in Cork, in Ireland, and came to Australia, and specifically to the Archdiocese of Perth, in November of 1953, at the age of twenty-four, just five months after his ordination as a priest.
As you can see from the booklet, during his active life as a priest here in Perth, Fr Finbarr was in a variety of places. He started at West Perth, and moved to Cottesloe as an assistant in 1954. He was then transferred to the Cathedral parish where he served for many years as assistant priest, secretary, administrator and Dean.
In 1976 Fr Finbarr was asked to come to this parish of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Church we are celebrating in this morning was built by him and is a beautiful and tangible symbol of his long and fruitful ministry. I think it is fair to say that Rockingham was Fr Finbarr’s real home and the people of this parish were very much a part of his family.
As most of you know Fr Finbarr did other things, too, before he retired in 2007.He was very involved in the establishing of Kolbe College here in Rockingham, he was the WA coordinator for the International Eucharistic Congress in 1973 in Melbourne, and he was for a time a member of the Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia. Only yesterday one of the assistant directors at the Catholic Education Office was telling me about Fr Walsh’s absolute determination to see Kolbe College established, and also of his great devotion to the Mother of the Lord which led him to choose St Maximilian Kolbe as the patron of the College. Like this Church the College too is a wonderful testament to Fr Finbarr’s courage, persistence and faith.
The positions Fr Finbarr held, and the projects he brought to completion are very substantial, and it is important that we remember them today. They remind us that Fr Finbarr has been a very significant contributor to the life of the Archdiocese over many years. But this list of appointments and achievements doesn’t and can’t tell the real story of Fr Finbarr’s priestly life. That story is only really known to the countless people whose lives have been enriched by him. None of us is perfect and I’m sure that Fr Finbarr made his mistakes, as we all do. But God can and does work with us and through us even when we are struggling and stumbling, even when we are not at our best. Who knows how many children and adults Fr Finbarr brought into the life of the Church and the life of God’s grace through his celebration of the sacrament of baptism? Who knows how many people, after they had encountered him in the confessional, went away forgiven, renewed and with a new sense of hope? Who knows how many people were able to face their approaching death because Fr Finbarr had been there ready to offer them the Sacrament of Anointing? Who knows how many people were fed and strengthened because Fr Finbarr was faithful to the celebration of Mass? And who knows how many people received a word of encouragement, or understanding, or perhaps even challenge, just at the very moment when they needed it?
These are the things that make up the life of a priest and Fr Finbarr lived that life for fifty-seven years. And it is this which I, as someone who did not know Fr Finbarr, find the most remarkable and inspiring thing. Whatever struggles and limitations Fr Finbarr may have had, and they may have been few or many – I simply don’t know - the fact is he remained faithful to his priesthood. Fidelity, it seems to me, is not something that we should take for granted or discount too easily. It is the product of courage, of determination, of generosity and, certainly for a priest, of faith. Although I didn’t know Fr Finbarr, and most of you did, I feel very confident in saying that he must have been this kind of man for him to live the life of fidelity which we are remembering today.
We have gathered here today then to mourn and to remember. But we have also gathered as people of faith, just as Fr Finbarr was a man of faith, to entrust him to the Lord. We have gathered to pray for Fr Finbarr that the Lord will look on him with compassion and with love, will forgive him his sins and will welcome him into the fullness of life. And if God is as we say he is, if he is really the Father that Jesus revealed him to be, then we are people of hope as well as faith. If Jesus could tell the story of the father who welcomed home his prodigal son, and if Jesus could say to the woman caught in adultery, “I do not condemn you”, and if Jesus could say of those who were killing him “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”, how can we doubt that God will reach out and welcome this good and faithful priest into his kingdom and his love.
One of the best signs of gratitude we can offer to show our respect for someone who has died is to commit ourselves to bringing alive in our own lives the qualities we admired so much in the one we have lost. As each of you remembers Fr Finbarr, and the story of his own presence in your life, ask what qualities he would most dearly love to see in you. As you pray for him today, and entrust him to the Lord, may you also commit yourselves to keeping his memory alive by trying to be all that he hoped and prayed you would be.
Above: Fr Walsh's grand-niece sprinkles the coffin with Holy Water guided by Rockingham's Parish Priest, Fr Michael Separovich
Eternal rest give to him, O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen