Fr Tom was born in Kilfadda in County Tipperary in 1923. In 1944 he made the decision to come to Australia as a missionary, and was ordained on 6 June 1948. He spent 6 years in Northcote and 4 years in Camberwell and then went to Sydney to establish and run the Catholic Enquiry Centre for 20 years. He came to Beaumaris in 1977 where he remained till his retirement in 1999. During his years in Beaumaris he was assisted by Mary Baldock. Our thoughts go to you tonight, Mary, as you mourn the passing of someone with whom you worked so closely and to whom you have been such a dear friend.
Last Sunday, as he lay in Como Hospital, his hands clasped the railing of the bed. He seemed to be unconscious, yet there was strength still in those hands. And I was struck at how often they had been raised in blessing, how many times they had poured the waters of baptism, how often they had given the Eucharist and forgiven sins, and blessed young couples. Blessings without number had flowed from those hands as they grasped the railing of the bed on his last day.
The details about his life – where he was born, where he had lived – are true, but they spring from something more significant and more indicative of who he really is. They sprang from his dreams. On the photo of the booklet we can see the photo of Tom as a young man. What dreams and hopes had surfaced in him? What motivation, such that he could leave the green fields of Ireland and travel across the wide blue seas to reach this sunburnt country, powerful dreams that swelled his heart? Indeed, we are more truly our hopes and dreams than the facts of date and place of birth, the external events of life, can say. On the cover also is a photo of Tom in his maturity. He could look back on the years since his youth and understand how he had fulfilled his dreams. Last Sunday week I went to visit him when he was fully conscious. We spoke about his life and how much he had done. He was consoled at these thoughts, and we too give thanks to God, tonight and every day, for all that Tom has done over more than sixty years of priestly service.
His dreams were inspired dreams indeed, and these in turn sprang essentially from the dreams that God had in him; the moments of grace which truly define who a person is. These hopes and dreams are placed deep down in us, largely unknown to us; they are our truest self. It was in his charismatic prayer that Tom gave expression to hopes beyond human telling. And for all of us too, what do we know of God’s hopes for us? We know and partly know. God’s hopes for us give rise to inspired dreams, and these in turn inspired our actions.
Tom lies still before us, completely still, but we know he is essentially on a journey far more significant than the boat trip made across the seas so long ago. He is on the great pilgrimage, of which all other journeys are the foreshadowing.
What is happening to him, even as we speak? We know and we don’t know. We have only the darksome knowledge of faith. At the beginning of Mass, his sister Dolores lit the paschal candle to remind us of the prayer that the celebrant so long ago at Tom’s baptism had made, praying that Tom might keep the flame of faith alive in his heart. He has done this and now this faith will lead him in ways unseen. It is a wonderful journey. What burdens are being removed? What clarity is being given to his vision? What fears are being relieved? What worlds are opening up before him now?
Indeed, tonight we celebrate not so much a life once lived as a journey now begun. We think of what has happened but more of what will happen. We celebrate tonight the beginning of his great crossing into an eternal future. Our celebration is indeed a ceremony of the future. Tom had anticipated this as he and his friends prayed his sister Pauline’s prayer, of which the last verse reads:
“Bring me home to the heart of my Master,
To the land overflowing with bliss,
Where joys shall be deep and unending,
to repay all my sorrows in this.”
His journey is taking place even as we speak, and nothing can prevent this journey. As St Paul says:
“nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord”
Nothing now will stop the hopes of God for him being fulfilled. He will indeed become the missionary he always wanted to be: The words that Jesus says at the Last Supper can be put into the mouth of Tom also:
“I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me
may be in them
and so that I may be in them.”
May these words be ours also!
Tom, may you rest in peace.
Fr John Dupuche PP
Stella Maris Church, Beaumaris,
Thursday 10 September 2009