Home' The Southern Cross : April 2016 Contents Page 6 April 2016
Southern Cross | feature
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To be invited into a family circle at such a time
is a privilege and a trust without equal.
Nothing matters at such a time,
but the wishes of those we serve.
A priest visiting the
sick in Peru
Through their hands, God’s hand caresses the earth...
Priests and religious are above all the apostles of Divine
Mercy - and not merely during the extraordinary Year of
Mercy that Pope Francis has proclaimed for the whole
Church. They feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, endure
injustice. They promote reconciliation and absolve the
repentant from their sins. Day by day, through the works
of spiritual and corporal mercy, they show people the Face
of the Merciful God. ‘They’ are the priests and religious
of the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has proclaimed an
Extraordinary Year of Mercy, which is intended to be “a time
of grace for the Church and to help render the witness of
the faithful stronger and more effective.” It is surely also
an occasion to reflect with great gratitude on the witness of
those who proclaim this Mercy with their whole lives.
Throughout the world wherever the Church is poor, persecuted
or threatened, there are tens of thousands of priests and
religious daily living the ‘Yes’ they have already given to God.
It is vital that the indispensable work of priests and religious
in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church and throughout the missions
worldwide continues. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in
Need (ACN) is proud to help them in their efforts to make the
world a better place. The average grant ACN gives to support
priests and religious is between $200 - $500 but whatever you
can afford will be enormously appreciated. ACN forwards the
donations directly to the religious superiors in charge of the
religious communities and congregations.
A complimentary Year of Mercy rosary designed by the
Vatican rosary makers and blessed by Pope Francis will be
sent out to all those who give a donation of $15.00 or more
to support this cause and tick the box below.
Every confessor must accept the faithful as the father in
the parable of the prodigal son. Confessors are called
to embrace the repentant son who comes home and to
express the joy of having him back again.
Chosen to be the
Mother of the Son of
God, Mary, from the
outset, was prepared
the Ark of the Covenant
between God and man.
She treasured divine
mercy in her heart in
perfect harmony with
her son Jesus.
The red and white
beads represent the
rays of light of the
Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King
and Bob Dylan were all inspirational
men of the 1960s... they brought
messages of peace and justice and
for a young Pat Woods they struck
a chord, with the thought of being
able to “change the world” leading
him to the doors of the seminary.
“In my generation you probably had
a lot of people in the world who
made an impact on us – they all had
a message. In the ‘60s and ‘70s
there was this message culture that
we ‘have to change the world’, that
we were in a position to change the
“For me, my inspiration was
probably Bobby Kennedy, from the
point of view he actually made a
lot of sense in what he said. The
guys who went into the seminary
with me had a similar perception of
the world... that you could change
But the Vietnam War – and in Fr
Pat’s case the assassination of
RFK – had a huge impact on these
idealistic young men.
“When I went to the seminary there
were 80 guys there and by the time I
left there were 22. The guys became
a bit disillusioned and went off to do
However, this Scotish-born lad
continued on his journey with
God, ending up in the Elizabeth
South Parish where he was
ordained. Looking back on his
service he is modest about any
accomplishments. Others are more
generous in their praise and those
serving in the Air Force have a deep
gratitude for Fr Pat’s support during
their tours of duty.
Joining the Air Force was never
on the radar for the priest, who
was content to serve his northern
“I never had a plan to do this,” he
admitted, but explained when a
terminally ill priest asked him to
step in as his replacement as the
chaplain at the Edinburgh base, he
could hardly say no.
Initially Fr Pat joined as a reservist
and then became a member of the
permanent Air Force, which saw him
undertaking overseas tours, as well
as assisting after the Bali bombings.
Chaplains play a unique role in
the armed forces. They provide
essential counselling and support
– mentally and spiritually – to
personnel across all faiths as well as
those of no religious affiliation.
Besides conducting Sunday
church services, the chaplain is
responsible for Anzac Day services,
funerals and baptisms, pastoral
care, and character and personal
While Fr Pat can’t disclose specifics
about much of his 30 years of
service, he is quite open when it
comes to praising the men and
women who fight for their country.
He said the “hardest sermon” during
his time as chaplain was given on
the day before the invasion of Iraq
in 2003. Only two days prior to this
Pope John Paul II had said there
was no justification for the war and
Fr Pat had to talk to the troops in a
very diplomatic way.
In what he laughingly describes as
a “back to the future” moment, Fr
Pat returned to the Elizabeth Parish
about five years ago. Now he works
tirelessly for the local community,
helping parishioners to cope during
difficult times as the closure of the
Holden plant nears. While he is no
longer in full time service with the
RAAF, he continues as the Catholic
chaplain at Edinburgh, conducting
baptisms, weddings or other
celebrations as needed.
Each year he is called on to lead the
annual Anzac Day service at One
Tree Hill and said he was extremely
proud to conduct the blessing of
a new war memorial unveiled at
Two Wells recently, in honour of
all the people killed in Iraq and
While March 17 may have been a
milestone in his personal timeline,
he described it as insignificant
compared with the importance of
April 25 each year.
And he hopes, just as Bobby
Kennedy would have wanted, that
his service to God has in some
small way made a difference to the
lives of men and women serving our
Fr Pat inspired to serve others
On March 17 Fr Pat Woods celebrated 40 years of priesthood, much of which
was spent serving as a chaplain in the RAAF. With Anzac Day later this month,
he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Lindy McNamara about what
initially inspired him to join the priesthood and how his service took flight.
TOUR OF DUTY: Fr Pat Woods (on steps) speaking with Air Force personnel preparing to fly.
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