St Mary’s North Sydney was full for the funeral celebration of Fr Paul Coleman SJ on 5 October, as parishioners joined Jesuits and family in saying farewell to a priest who touched many lives.
Paul died on 25 September aged 90 at the Mater Hospital, where he had previously been a long-time chaplain. Much of his priestly life was spent in various roles in Sydney, including many years at North Sydney parish.
In his homily at the funeral, Fr Michael Kelly SJ said one of the most extraordinary things about Paul was how his inclusiveness brought him into contact with so many different people, in so many different walks of life.
‘He was a pastor without peer’, said Fr Kelly. ‘He was someone who didn’t know what to do unless it was to give. And what did he give? He gave in response to what Jesus invited Peter to do: Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.
‘There was no one too high, and no one too low … No one too egocentric, and no one too self-deprecating, who wasn’t included in the reach of his love. From his life as a prison chaplain to the grandeur of his investiture at Government House. He reached everywhere.’
Fr Kelly spoke about being with Paul at the last stages of his life, when even then he felt that he needed to be out there doing ministry work.
‘It was an enormous surrender for Paul to not be what he’d always been, which was a compulsive servant’, he said.
‘Which was again the only reason he joined the Jesuits, and the only reason there is for being a Jesuit. It’s not to build up a diocese, it’s not to maintain a prestigious college — it’s to serve people in all their immense variety. To be there accompanying people on their journeys.’