Fr Tom Devereux was farewelled by the Irish community at St Patrick’s Parish Hall in Bondi earlier this month.
About 200 people came to say goodbye to the popular Galwayman.Tributes came from Consul General Caitríona Ingoldsby, Eamon Eastwood of Cormac McAnallens GAC, Steve Carey of the New South Wales GAA, Tom O’Keeffe of the Kerry Association and John Grieve of Penrith Gaels who said that Fr Devereux had been “a father to us all”.
An emotional Fr Tom said that he become a “passionate supporter of the Sydney Irish community”. He said he was disappointed that the Church had yet to find a replacement for him in the chaplaincy role. But to loud applause, he said that he had informed his superiors that “if, in twelve months, they have not found a replacement in Bondi, I will put my hand up again.”
Fr Tom said that his mission was “to bring the Irish community together”.
Meanwhile, members of the pastoral care team at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney have raised concerns about the delay in appointing a new Irish chaplain. Part of the chaplain’s role involves visiting emigrants and their families at hospitals across Sydney.
Fr Darryl Mackie, manager of ministry relations at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, said it has two full-time chaplains based there but has regularly called on the Irish chaplain to meet the specific needs of Irish patients and their families.
Fr Mackie described the departure of Fr Devereux as a “sad loss to the Bondi community and the Irish Catholic community”.
He said the absence of an Irish chaplain could impact on the hospital’s pastoral care ability. “We would probably still survive. It’s more about the level of care that we can provide,” he said.
Michael Lyons, a lay member of the pastoral care team at the hospital, has urged the Church to move quickly.
“During my eight years I have witnessed on many occasions the emotional and spiritual support provided by the Irish chaplain,” Mr Lyons said, in a letter to this newspaper.
“To see a grieving parent or sibling go through the pain and hurt following a family tragedy and often the loss of a child, brother or sister is unimaginable. Sometimes the only way they can find some hope and meaning is through the support of an Irish chaplain, one of their own in a far off land, who will just listen and will not judge or criticise.
“It is a special ministry, and more pastoral as pointed out by Fr Tom himself and of course a younger more open-minded priest would be preferred. Whilst this may present some obstacles I’m sure if the will and support was there to replace Fr Tom by the decision-makers in Ireland it could be achieved,” he added.
He urged the community to contact the Church about the matter.
A spokeswoman for the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference told the Irish Echo it is “actively seeking a new Emigrant Chaplain”.