This was the farewell address given to Father Paul McCabe at his final mass on Sunday, February 13, by Moree Parish Council chairman Mark Humphries.
I’d like to say a few words on behalf of the parish and community generally.
Sadness and Joy
Well Fr Paul, your last month has been a very busy one, (numerous baptisms, funerals and a flurry of farewells) but the time has come – your retirement is at hand. You have fought the good fight, you have run the race, you have fanned the faith!
And today you drive off into the sunset!
We are here today feeling a bit sad as we say good bye to a friend and pastor, to a leaven of goodness and grace in our community.
We are here today with mixed feelings ... of loss and gratitude, joy and sorrow.
But joy and sorrow are different sides of the same coin and our sense of loss and gratitude are intertwined!
Sad though we are, we are also happy that Fr Paul’s respite from the significant demands of parish work, is near.
And we are happy that the time has come for him to lay down his burden, and enter a new phase of his journey.
Overwhelmingly, we are grateful.
Fr Paul has faithfully served as a priest for 51 years, 18 of those years in Moree.
In our various communities, amidst life’s joys and defeats he has ministered word and sacrament and helped us listen ... for the whisper of the transcendent and the breath of the sacred, not just in “church” but present in our midst ... in the “ordinary”.
He has walked among us, has journeyed with us, ministering grace and blessing at our births, weddings and funerals … not aloof, but with basin and towel, sharing our joys and soothing hurts and loss with compassion and kindness, understanding, and wise counsel.
Thinking about Paul’s ministry and time with us, the image that comes to me is that of a lighthouse.
A lighthouse doesn’t usually command a lot of attention.
On bright sunny days it is taken for granted and glibly undervalued.
But, for life’s voyagers, for life’s travellers, when seas are rough and storm tossed, when the wind is against them and the darkness is closing in, a lighthouse is a sustaining and comforting presence, giving hope and direction for wanderers searching for home.
But now our lighthouse is moving … to Armidale!!
Fortunately for us, it is moving to higher ground and the light will continue to shine; source of blessing, a beacon of integrity in our memories and in our hearts, across the miles and through the years.
Fr Paul leaves us with a rich legacy.
During his time with us he has scattered seeds of faith; seeds of understanding and kindness; seeds of truth and goodness; seeds of love, joy and peace!
And only God knows when, and how, these seeds will sprout and bear fruit.
Prayers and blessings
So Paul, as you leave us, we as a community, extend our own best wishes and our blessing to you, in the words of the priestly blessing from the book of Numbers:
May the Lord bless you … and keep you;
May the Lord make his face shine on you … and be gracious to you;
May the Lord turn his face toward you … and give you peace.
Farewell and God bless!