Cooloola bids farewell to a man who 'walks the talk'
THERE was quite a flock at St Patrick's Catholic Church on Sunday. They came in droves the well heeled, the down-at-heel, the frail pensioners, the children, the teens with their shaggy haircuts and low-slung jeans, community leaders, the faithful and yes, even the non-believers.
Everyone, it seemed wanted to say thank you to Father Joe McGeehan, a man whose compassion and pastoral care reached beyond denominations, beyond social standing, in fact beyond all petty divisions.
Parishioner Patrick Carroll echoed the sentiment of many when he said Father Joe was always ready to help wherever it was needed.
"He's a man with a deep love for his flock," Mr Carroll said.
"He gives himself completely to his work and his people wherever you go you find people who know and love him."
The respect that the region holds for Father Joe is abundantly clear when his name is mentioned in any circle. I suppose we all just know a good bloke when we see one, but letting him go has been hard. His rare combination of gentleness and strength are traits everyone holds in high esteem from the elderly folk he made a point of visiting on a regular basis to the Mayor and his wife.
"Father Joe McGeehan has been a great friend to the Venardos family and a great friend to all the people of Cooloola and the shires beyond," Cr Venardos said yesterday.
"I'm very sad to see Joe leave our community. His compassion, understanding and soft ways have been a solace to everyone."
Cr Venardos and his wife Tina attended the Sunday mass, which saw St Patrick's Catholic Church filled to overflowing.
"I certainly wish Joe all the very best in his new position," Cr Venardos said.
St Patrick's Primary School principal Kathy Fuller said while she had only known Father Joe for a short time, he had always been of enormous support to the school.
"He's always so wise in his advice and listens so carefully to everyone. His spirituality and humanity shines through. He genuinely meets people where they are at he walks the talk," Ms Fuller said.
St Patrick's Primary school administration officer Vicki Major said there was standing room only in the church on Sunday.
"Over 400 people filled the church probably more like 500. Mass was followed by morning tea in the school hall and again it was filled to overflowing. Everyone was very understanding as to why he is leaving us. The workload in the parish is so big now," Mrs Major said.
The parish community presented Father Joe with a set of stoles as a farewell gift.
Father Joe, who has been in Gympie for 16 years, 15 of those as parish priest, leaves tomorrow for his new position in Wavell Heights, Brisbane, where he will be the parish administrator.
St Patrick's College Principal David Cuskelly has seen how hard Father Joe works and says his ability to connect to people from all walks of life is outstanding.
"You cannot find a trace of hypocrisy in the way he lives his life. He genuinely respects others."
Father Joe says his time in Gympie is the longest period of time he has lived anywhere.
"I am very attached to so many people here throughout the parish and the schools of course, but also to many others in the wider Gympie community and throughout the whole district. I'll miss so many people."
He added he was certain to be back "for the odd wedding or two".
And all who have been touched by Father Joe McGeehan's pastoral care or simply met and recognised a genuinely good man will miss him in return, but we are all much richer for having known him.