Fr Tony's farewell speech to Myrtleford Parish

Carissimi. My time with you has come to an end. In my heart there is sadness but also gratitude, pain of separation but also joy in having come to know you and be so much a part of your lives. This we have felt before many times as we gathered to farewell many relatives and friends. This has been one of the greatest privileges of my ministry as a priest here at Myrtleford. We have had many celebrations which have given us new life to our faith and increased in us the joy of the Gospel; the arrival of the statue of St. Anthony from Italy, the Mass for La Fiera, the praying of the rosary for world peace in the piazza and releasing our prayers in the form of the rosary made from the balloons, the celebration of Good Friday with the other Christian Churches of our town, the many baptisms, first communion and confirmation of our children.
We also had many celebrations at the Savoy Club, which you built and continue to support – celebrations of the various regions and unique characteristics of the Trevisani, Vincentini, Calabresi and all regions of Italy and other nations of our world in the annual Immigration Dinner. At the heart of these celebrations was the unity of all people - that we are all Italians and now we are also all of us Australians. Such unity in diversity is the unique quality of the people of Myrtleford based on important values such as hard work despite difficulties, hospitality around a shared table of rich food and wines, never forgetting our history and origin or our ancestors who have given us the riches of our current life, continuing to be able to dance and sing in cele3bration and with joy. Hard work, good homes in which to rest, building communities which know how to celebrate, building on the faith we have received from our families; these are the qualities of a rich culture and a good society which we must never loose.

In all of this I have been cared for by this community like a son and brother. You know that the time which you have your sons and daughters is often a short time. I thought that I would spend more time with you here in Myrtleford, but God has a different plan. He is the God of Surprises, no?

Maybe God sent me to you to encourage and reassure you that he has not forgotten you or abandoned you. Once again you heard his word to you in your own Italian language, once more we were able to pray and sing in the Italian language. God surprised you and reminds you that he too speaks Italian and understands you and hears you when you speak to him, no? You always knew this and did not need to be reminded for too long, so I must go now and learn to speak the language of another people so that they too may be reassured and encouraged.

I am afraid! However I know that God will continue to call to me and speak to me in the midst of my fears. I need the support and reassurance of your continued prayers to God for me, especially in the night- time of my fears, when all is silent, when I close the door on each day and seek rest from my work. This is the best time to pray for me and each other, being alone, tired and vulnerable. This is the time when the darkness can overwhelm us and Satan is at play in our lives. Pray for me as I will for you. Thank you for this time I have had with you, although short it will remain forever with me.

My dearest father and mother, my sisters and my brothers thank you! Your loving son and brother.

Sia lodato Gesu` Cristo!!