The Catholic community has paid tribute to Fr Paul Purcell who died on Sunday, August 29, aged 94.
Fr Paul was in his 41st year of priesthood following 30 years of service as a Dominican brother, which included 25 years as captain of a mission ship in the Solomon Islands.
A tireless servant of his vocation, Fr Paul was awarded an MBE for his service to the people of the Solomons.
Fr Paul served as parish priest in parishes in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane before joining the Diocese of Sandhurst just before Christmas in 2000.
Fellow priest, Fr Rom Hayes, recounts Fr Paul's arrival at Wodonga parish, "He had only a small kit bag with him and said five Masses that first weekend.
"In the 20 years that I've known him, he's never said no to anything," said Fr Rom.
Fr Paul 'retired' to St Kilian's Parish in Bendigo in 2012, where he continued to celebrate daily Mass until very recently.
"A priest never really retires," he would often say.
With Fr Junray Rayna, Administrator of St Kilian's, Fr Paul live-streamed daily Mass from St Kilian's presbytery chapel.
Fr Paul was a great believer that the church needed to embrace technology and saw the need to do whatever possible to provide opportunities for the catholic community to pray together at virtual Mass.
Speaking to the Bendigo Advertiser in March 2020 at the start of the global pandemic when church services went online, the popular cleric said the church has always been good at keeping up with technological demand.
"I don't know much about the electronic side of it (but) give me a big diesel engine and I'll fix it for you," he said.
Born and raised in Yarraville, Fr Paul was an avid Footscray/Bulldogs supporter.
He completed an apprenticeship in engineering and boiler making before joining the Dominicans in 1949.
His engineering skills were put to great use when he was tasked with rebuilding a 75ft ketch, the Salve Regina, which was to become the mission ship he skippered to serve the people of the Solomon Islands.
Fr Paul was known for his quiet self-deprecating humour, dry wit, and gentle demeanour.
Fr Paul lived an enriched, adventurous and rewarding life in the service of others.
In doing so, he inspired and enriched the lives of so many. He will be dearly missed.
The Funeral Mass for Fr Paul will be live-streamed from St Kilian's Church on Friday September 3, at 2:00 p.m.
The Mass can be accessed via the Diocesan Facebook page or website. www.sandhurst.catholic.org.au
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