Cake and colours for ‘pilgrim priest’s’ 80th
Birthdays come and go, but for Bishop Pat Power this was one he thought he might never make.
His grandfather died at 51, his father at 62, and the retired auxiliary bishop of Canberra and Goulburn has had his own health concerns.
“So I never really had any thoughts about living to a great age,” he told the Catholic Voice.
But he has made it to 80, a significant milestone that Fr Emil Milat and Canberra’s St Thomas More parishioners celebrated with him at Mass and morning tea last Sunday.
Monica Phelan of the parish’s pastoral council told the congregation how Bishop Pat was born in Cooma, raised in Queanbeyan, and attended schools in Canberra and Bowral. He was ordained a priest in 1965 and consecrated bishop in 1986. In 1975 he received a doctorate in Canon Law following studies in Rome.
Reflecting on his life, Ms Phelan said he was “a great example of courage, driven by deep faith and humility. He has a vision of a part of the church where everyone feels genuinely and openly inclusive.”
Bishop Pat has long been acknowledged for his commitment to social justice, to refugees, to indigenous Australians and to the disadvantaged. He has also been active in ecumenical and interfaith issues.
“I’ve tried to stand up at times for what I believe is right,” he said. “I was always concerned when people said they didn’t have a voice.”
For many, Bishop Pat became that voice. In 2009 he was recognised with a Canberra Citizen of the Year award for his “demonstrated commitment to providing a voice for those who have difficulty speaking for themselves; for providing comfort and spiritual guidance to those in need; and always being prepared to speak out against prejudice and inequality.”
At Sunday’s celebration, Fr Pat, as he is known, was presented with a birthday cake and set of Rosary beads in the colours of his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team.
Parishioners also recalled the intrepid climber of Canberra’s Mt Ainslie that overlooks the capital. A picture of Bishop Pat close to the summit appears on the front cover of his 2017 book, Joy and Hope: Pilgrim Priest & Bishop.
For someone who said he first considered the priesthood when he was seven, it’s been quite a climb in a bigger sense and one not yet at an end. He remains a familiar sight around the archdiocese with dog Clara by his side.
“I can honestly say that there’s never been a day when I haven’t thanked God for the gift of the priesthood. It’s been a great grace to me [including the] … many beautiful friendships I’ve made,” he said.
“It’s been a wonderful life.”