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A loving tribute to

Fr Paul Coleman


This page has been built for Fr Paul's family and friends to connect online and share their personal memories and stories.

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Father Paul Coleman was born in 1927 in Melbourne. He was the eldest of 5 children , all of whom pre-deceased him. He was educated at Xavier College and the University of Melbourne where he commenced a Degree in Arts/Law . After two years he left university and joined the Jesuits. He was ordained in 1959 in this church, St Mary's North Sydney. In 1962 he was sent as Assistant priest to the Parish of North Sydney In 1964 my husband , our three children and I moved to our home in Wollstonecraft . The day after we moved the doorbell rang and as we answered the door, there on the doorstep was a good looking young priest who said “I am Father Paul Coleman and I have come to welcome you into the Parish”. My family are just one of hundreds of families who received this welcome to Parish by Father Paul. Each one of us here to-day has a cherished and treasured memory of Father Paul . I will present my memories but later on over a cup of tea I am sure you will recall many treasured and personal memories. During those early years in the Parish together with Father Bob Walsh and under the watchful eye of Father Tom Costelloe Father Paul visited all the Catholic families as well as many families who were not Catholic within the Parish Boundaries. Many of these families had young children and so he became not just our priest but our good friend and friend also to our children so that years later he married our children, baptised their children and then buried our loved ones. He had an uncanny ability to make each person feel special as if you were the only person in his life. He had a deep respect for all people whether Catholic of Calathumpian …he did not discriminate .. and hence had a huge impact on an amazing number of people. He was always Christ centred and often stretched the boundaries to help people in need. He had boundless energy and a burning desire to nourish people with God's love by showing them compassion and giving them succour. No request was ever denied even though sometimes it meant great personal sacrifice. He thrived on being with people …whether they were friends sharing a good story, a bottle of very expensive wine, exquisitely prepared food and stimulating and witty conversation ….or they were people on the edge of society at the lowest point in their lives. He felt at ease with people from all walks of life . He could converse and share a joke with eminent doctors or members of the legal fraternity as well as with the ordinary person in the street. In the 1960s he made the Parish zing. He developed a Faith Community by forming groups and putting in place ministries so that all parishioners who wanted to be involved were included. 2. He formed Scripture Groups to discuss various books of the Old and New Testament, The Regis group for the over 21s so young people could meet , have dances, dinners, talks, meetings , concerts in the Old Manresa Hall. The resource group was formed for single professional women to discuss matters of interest to them. Experts in Moral Theology, Ethics and Scripture were invited to address the Men's Group which met at night in various homes . The Care and Concern Group members visited those who had lost loved ones and took ' home - cooked ' meals to the bereaved to help deal with the pressures that only death can bring. He was most practical. He set up the RCIA, and later on the Christian Living Community Groups and the First Parish Pastoral Council. He set up a very special ministry of Special Ministers of the Eucharist to take Holy Communion to the Home Bound. The elderly and frail parishioners were delighted to receive weekly visits when they would receive Holy Communion, be given the Parish Bulletin and Parish news and once a year have a visit from a priest for the Sacrament of Healing. He embraced the changes which came with Vatican 11. He re-modelled and extended this sanctuary , had the Communion rails removed and designed and oversaw the making of this beautiful Altar and President's Chair. He thoughtfully put in ramps at the side door of the church to cater for the elderly and the disabled. Through all these changes he welcomed the whole community to participate in the liturgical life of the Church. When the Vietnamese Boat people started to arrive in Australia Father formed a small committee of people with requisite skills to go out to the camps , speak with the families and offer help. The group would then arrange accommodation , supply furniture and settle as many families as possible either in the Parish or in other suburbs. Father would find work for the father of the family, committee members would find accommodation , children of school age would be found places in school and rent and bond money would be paid by the Parish until the families got on their feet. In addition he set up a Parish House for unaccompanied Vietnamese children . A house mother was employed to look after the children who were enrolled in local schools. As some students completed their education and moved on other unaccompanied children would move in. All these students did well and moved on to lead productive lives. Now let me give you two snapshots of Father Paul from a younger generation and I quote_; “I saw him up close over 5 years , working each evening in the presbytery. Then and later I was struck by his open mindedness and his tolerance. I smoked then and friends used to come and spend time with me while I worked and they smoked and he would come into the office waving his arms around as though there was a thick fog in the room that he had to get through. I think every time I saw him after that he would laugh and wave his arms around and tell anybody who would listen about how my friends and I would puff away in the presbytery. 3. Almost every day during those 5 years he would rush into the office, wave his arms around, race upstairs and change into his squash or tennis gear and race out again. He would be back to have a chat with whomsoever was around and would then go out again. He was always in demand , always on the go, but the place worked like clockwork because competent people loved him and wanted things to work out well for him. Over the years since then he has married , christened or buried many of my family and friends. On each of those occasions he encouraged people of all persuasions to become involved in the service. He was a one off and I liked knowing he was around and I feel sad” Second snapshot:- I quote:- Father Coleman was sprightly and never acted his age. He loved entertaining everybody. His Presence always lit up the room with laughter. He was an extraordinary man who dealt with the sick and dying at the Mater Hospital for many years . He married me, baptised my son, married my brother, baptised his children and visited my father every week in care , anointed him towards the end of his life and buried him. A tremendous loss…he will always be remembered as a loving, accepting, warm, compassionate man and I fell honoured to have known him and I mourn his loss”. There are many more snapshots ..perhaps for another time. Over and above all the Parish innovations and extraordinary devotion to people was his own ministry as a Liturgical Leader of our Faith Community. He was imbued with the love of God and his burning desire to communicate God's love to all, by his words, by his actions and by his presence. He had a deep love and commitment to his priesthood and was meticulous in preparation for and celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments. He liked every liturgical celebration to run smoothly…everything was important.. …the music had to be just right…..the WORD had to be proclaimed…the Acolytes and Special Ministers had to be well trained . He encouraged minutes of silence with reflective music after Holy Communion and often led us in meditative prayer. The children's liturgies at Easter and Christmas were something special. Young faces lit up as a camel or baby elephant came down the aisle during a children's Christmas Mass. Professional actors and TV personalities made the reading of the Passion on Good Friday memorable. He had a great devotion to St Mary MacKillop and as chaplain at Mary MacKillop Place was very faithful to his duties and to the Sisters of Mary MacKillop. 4. As Chaplain at the Mater Hospital he threw himself with great enthusiastic dedication and zest to visit the sick and dying and bring comfort to so many. He was also , for many years , chaplain and very faithful to the St Vincent de Paul Society .. so much so that even in his last weeks giving a “thank-you and farewell” speech on the retirement of a St Vincent de Paul lady who worked for many years in the St Vincent de Paul shop at Crows nest. But over many years he still had time to play tennis….often getting up in the dark and racing off to play tennis with other professionals before they went off to work. On his day off on Tuesdays he played tennis at the L'Estrange home with all women!. He was not narrow minded and although he faced many challenges over the years he never held a grudge . He was non-judgmental. People were drawn to him because of his engaging personality , his great sense of fun and good humour and his undying loyalty to his friends. He had that inner strength that only comes with a clear understanding of who you are, what your purpose in life is , what your values are and a deep spirituality which sustains you. His last years and months , battling medical problems, with great stoicism , could not have been as productive and fruitful , without the dedication and devotion of his great friend, Sister Clare Koch. Clare's determination, decisiveness, great administrative skills and commitment allowed him to continue his priestly ministry right up to the last three weeks of his life. In his last days when God was calling him home, after questioning God's call, he embraced the God who he had served so well and affectionately for so long. In the words of Pedro Arrupe , former Superior General of the Jesuits , who Father Paul welcomed to Adelaide in 1968, Father Paul could also say:- “Now more than ever I find myself in the Hands of God. That is what I have wanted all my life from my youth. But now there is a difference The initiative is entirely with God. It is indeed a profound religious experience To know and feel myself so totally in God's Hands. “. REST IN PEACE NOW, OUR BEAUTIFUL FRIEND, Father Paul Coleman sj

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