Farewell to Father John

March 29, 2017

Father John McGrath at Berrigan St Columba’s.

Father John McGrath is saying goodbye to the Southern Riverina after almost 27 years working in the area.

Next month he will move to Corowa to become the priest in charge at St Mary’s Catholic Church.

He will replace retiring head priest Fr Paul Hart, who had served in the position for 20 years.

Fr John, as he is affectionately known, said while he has enjoyed his time with Berrigan’s St Columba’s and Barooga’s St Joseph’s and the surrounding communities, he said it was time for a change.

‘‘It’s going to be a change for sure, but after coming into my 27th year here I think it’s time,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve really enjoyed my work in the local communities and I’ve come to know the people within the towns.

‘‘It’s getting to the point that I’m marrying the same individuals that I baptised; I guess that shows how long I’ve been here.’’

Fr John has clocked up an impressive 40 years in his time as a Catholic priest.

He has worked in Berrigan, Jerilderie, Barooga, Mulwala and Savernake during his long service.

Prior to moving to Berrigan, he worked in Griffith, Wagga Wagga and Albury.

Alongside his general priest duties, Fr John has worked with different local churches. ‘‘It was great working with the other ministers and communities.’’

He has also worked with the Life Education Van organisation, better known as ‘Healthy Harold’.

Fr John was on both the local and regional committee, finding himself in the chairman’s position of the regional committee for a number of years.

He has worked with a suicide prevention committee, loss and grief support and the health services provided at Berrigan Multi-Purpose Service.

‘‘Doing all these extra things gave me a chance to really get to know the community, which makes it harder to leave,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve built so many supporting friendships in my time here.’’

St Columba’s school principal Damien Taylor said Fr John would be missed by the children, staff, congregation and community as a whole.

‘‘He is a community-minded man and well respected in the local area,’’ he said.

‘‘His support for the school during this time has been amazing and we are truly going to miss him being around.’’

●St Columba’s Parish will hold an afternoon tea to farewell Fr John on Sunday, April 2 at 2pm at the Berrigan Sportsground.

An invitation is extended to the Berrigan and district community to acknowledge the contribution that Fr John has made to his church and the community.

—Kacee Johnston

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