Homily for Funeral Mass for Fr John O'Halloran
Statement Released: Tuesday, July 05, 2005
In recent years I encountered Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on a number of occasions. On the first occasion I was surprised because media reports suggested that although he was a brilliant and demanding Theologian, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he was a fearsome character. I expected to meet a stern man, totally inflexible. I found him altogether different. There was no doubt about his theological brilliance as he expounded theology clearly and concisely, if anything strengthened by his quiet shyness that in no way weakened his message of the essential importance of truth for the well being of the Church. He seemed altogether different from a certain post modern expectation that equates strength and authority with loudness. The strength and authority was certainly there but the person who wielded it surprised the expectations of most, including myself. I mention Pope Benedict today because he displays on a larger stage the unpredictability and even personal mystery that lies at the heart of each one of us. Only God knows us through and through and probably only in God’s presence will we truly understand ourselves and others. Father Jack O’Halloran who we remember and honour today was not unlike the present Pope in his mixture of strength, gentleness, and mystery. He carried a similar shyness and gentleness while at the same time leaving no doubt about his strength, tenacity, and commitment.
John Patrick O’Halloran was born in Brisbane on 19th November 1919, the first of three children, the son of Irish immigrants Patrick O’Halloran, who became a Police officer, and Hannah Coughlan his wife. From their residence at Kangaroo Point Jack was sent to St Joseph’s Primary School, then St Laurence’s College, from which he left at the tender age of 16 to enter St Columba’s College, Springwood, and St Patrick’s College Manly to study for the priesthood. He was ordained in Brisbane in 1942 as the youngest priest in Australia. He belonged to a talented group of Brisbane priests, Kieran Luby, Tom Guy, Cyril Shand, Bill Livingstone and Ray Pender ordained with him all of whom died before him. Jack’s first appointment was Assistant Priest St James Coorparoo 1943- 1944, then Assistant Priest at St Peter’s Caboolture 1945-1946, Holy Trinity Banyo 1947-1949, St Joachim’s Holland Park 1950-1951, St Patrick’s Gympie 1952 -1956, until finally he was appointed by Archbishop Duhig with only a day’s notice to Murgon as Parish Priest from 1956-1963. From Murgon he was appointed parish priest of St John Vianney, Manly from 1964-1997 when he retired, after 34 years of faithful service to the people of that area. He lived there quietly in retirement, not always in the best of health until Christ called him home from the Mater Hospital at 5.30am on Friday last, 1 July. Jack O’Halloran’s life was not without suffering which in its own mysterious way may have moulded the quietness of his spirit. His brother Timothy died in 1936 at the tender age of 14, his father died soon after his Ordination in 1942, while his mother was killed in a road accident in 1952. He probably suffered more than most in the Seminary and Archdiocese when on a few occasions when he felt he was misjudged by his superiors. Despite the suffering he carried not the slightest trace of self pity or resentment. His ministry was marked by a pastoral energy and initiative that served his people well. He began the innovative summer school program at Murgon when he went there and it continued for thirty years, as well as building Churches at Dunwich, Point Lookout and finally the splendid Church at Manly. Retirement proved difficult for him and yet despite the illness he suffered he continued to minister to the Presentation Sisters at Manly whom he served faithfully and was repaid a hundred fold by their friendship and assistance. Only God would be aware of what he achieved in his long ministry or the importance of the footprints he left behind. I am sure that in all the areas he served, people and their offspring were touched by his sacramental ministry and his sheer God given humanity that reached out to all. He was a shining light in all those areas as the Book of Wisdom says like “a spark in the rubble”. “He put himself in the service of others” as the letter of St Peter challenges us to in a thousand different ways. All his life aware of the presence of his master, he was well prepared when that master came calling at 5.30 last Friday morning not as a stranger but as an old friend whom Fr O’Halloran had known and loved for a lifetime. There would have been no fear, no anxiety but only the very deepest joy and peace as he finally met face to face the person he had served “as in a glass darkly” to the very best of his ability, and to whom he introduced a multitude of people throughout his priestly ministry.
Today we offer our very deepest sympathy to his brother Kevin who because of ill health cannot be with us today, to Kevin’s wife Kathy and their family. We offer as well our deepest sympathy to the Presentation Sisters especially Sr Teresa Geraghty who was so good to him. We express our sympathy also to his housekeeper, Jeanette Deagen who cared for him lovingly, to Sylvia Heinze and Fr Dave O’Connor for the pastoral care they offered to him, to the doctors and nursing staff at the Mater Hospital who nursed him so effectively, and finally to the friends and parishioners of his beloved Manly parish and all those in other parishes where he continues to be remembered. At the same time we are filled with hope as we participate in this Eucharist as he did for a lifetime. This liturgy enables us to break through the artificial restraints of time and place into the real world of communion where the love of God prevents us from being separated from our loved ones. Hope encourages us here to wait for that final moment when the veils will be pulled aside and, in the presence of God we will once again see our loved ones face to face. Until that final moment arrives may God bless and reward Jack Patrick O’Halloran for all he did over 63 splendid years of priesthood. His long labours over, may he now rest in peace. Amen.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office