Father John Crothers, the parish priest of St Declan’s Penshurst and Our Lady of Fatima, Peakhurst was farewell by his parishioners after 16 years on November 1.
Mr Crothers was described as an extraordinary leader in the community who helped to foster goodwill and understanding between all congregations and faiths in the area.
To thank Mr Crothers for his incredible leadership during this time a number of farewell events were organised by both parishes to allow as many people as possible to say goodbye.
The Peakhurst Parish organised a farewell dinner at Club Rivers for around 240 people as well as a special farewell Mass and morning tea at the parish on the weekend of October 22 and 23.
As a larger parish St Declan’s held two farewell dinners where around 140 people attended at Mortdale RSL Club on Friday, October 28 and almost 280 people at the Maso’s Club, Mortdale on October 29.
At each he was acknowledged for the extraordinary contribution that he had provided during his time as Parish Priest.
Mr Crothers responded with words of gratitude and love for his time in the parish and said how these had been the happiest years of his life.
He acknowledged the support and affirmation he had constantly felt which had allowed him to be the best priest he could be.
On Sunday, October 30 he celebrated his final Mass at St Declan’s with a church overflowing with his family and parishioners.
It was a Mass of thanksgiving in every sense of the word. This was followed by a parish barbecue with over 600 people attending.
“It has been a time of mixed emotion as everyone has reflected on his extraordinary service and pastoral leadership,” St Declan’s Parish Council’s Monica Hayes said.
“The celebrations acknowledged the spirit of welcome, love, energy and faith John nourished through his ministry but also brought a great sense of sadness as it was time say goodbye to a much loved friend and pastor,” she said.
“John always treated everyone equally with kindness, concern and respect. He inspired everyone with his courage and never allowed church politics to come ahead of people.
“He was an advocate for people everywhere and was prepared to speak up when the needs of the people were being overlooked by church hierarchy.
“As Parish Priest everyone was always welcome to come as they are. No one was ever turned away.
“John ministered to people with his own words and actions guided by the words and actions of Jesus and day after day he shared his understanding and love of Jesus through the way he lived.
“John recognises and supports the role of women in ministry in the church and has a vision for equality and welcome for everyone in the church.
“He gave his support to the transformation of Marist Catholic College Penshurst to become a coeducational college.
“John inspired everyone with the balance he showed in his life. He brought together his strong faith with a love of music, a passion for tennis, his interest in Italian and his hospitality and warmth towards everyone.
“His pastoral service and genuine friendship will always be remembered and treasured by everyone who knew him.
“John’s ministry was defined by his integrity, compassion, courage and strong sense of social justice. It is never easy to say goodbye but the time has come for John to continue on his own faith journey and spend more time pursuing his interest in scripture study, writing a book, spending more time with his own family and friends and following whatever path he feels God is calling him to take.
“He has ensured strong foundations for the faith of our community as it passes into the care of Father Chris Ryan who will be Parish Priest with his fellow priests from the Missionaries of God’s Love when they take up residence in the parish from February 1, 2017.”