Fr Francis Carey
(19 August 1937 – 6 December 2014)
‘He had a gentle presence and a kind heart.’ That is how Fr Dan O’Malley, Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines, described Fr Francis Carey when he informed the membership of his death on Saturday 6 December. Father Frank was diagnosed with a form of cancer late in October. His death has been a great shock to all who knew him.Father Frank was the son of Paul and Marion Carey and was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He attended a secondary school there run by the Christian Brothers. He received his formation as a Columban in Sassafras, Victoria, and in Wahroonga and Turramurra, New South Wales. He was ordained in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on 13 December 1962 by Archbishop Ernest Victor Tweedy, at the time the Archbishop Emeritus of Hobart, Tasmania.
St Michael’s Cathedral, Iligan City [Wikipedia]
Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco, 1570-75
Galleria Nozionale, Parma, Italy [Web Gallery of Art]
Fr Carey’s life as a priest was guided especially by Luke 4:18-19: ‘”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”’ A friend noted, ‘Even with the ecology it was about healing, reconciling and liberating.’ Luke 4:14-19 was the gospel read at his request at the funeral Mass in Our Lady of Remedies Church, Malate, Manila, on 11 December, with the passage Jesus read, Isaiah 61:1-3, as the First Reading.
This is what guided him when he spent nearly seven years, from 1969 till 1976, in Australia, working as a chaplain to overseas students, promoting the work of Columbans throughout the world and seeking vocations to the missionary priesthood. He could be creatively practical. He once spent a month in an outback parish in Australia and told the people on his first Sunday there that he couldn’t cook and would appreciate it if each day of his stay a different family would invite him to their home for a hot meal. The people were delighted to do so and around 30 families by welcoming this friendly missionary priest learned quite a bit about the work of the Columbans in the Philippines.
On his return to the Philippines in 1976 Father Frank spent nearly a year in the parish of Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur, before moving to Manila where he was to spend most of the rest of his life, apart from a stint on mission promotion in Australia from 1991 to 1996 in Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales. From 1981 until 1991 he worked with third-level students in Manila, with periods as chaplain in Philippine Women’s University, Far Eastern University, and with Student Catholic Action, which was founded by Columban Fr Edward J. McCarthy in the 1930s.
Sanctuary, Our Lady of Remedies Church, Malate [Wikipedia]
A Columban employee who visited CELL in 2009 wrote in an online tribute, ‘Thank you for giving me inspiration in advocating and living a life dedicated to nourishing the earth and everything that God put in it. I remember my short time at CELL, feeling the earth, inhaling the freshness of the surroundings, enjoying the meals that were served to us straight from the lush garden, everything. I will never forget the excitement I saw in your eyes when you munched on some mint leaves just to convince us that these things are actually good and can nourish our bodies.’ This same person, a young married woman, expressed to this writer on hearing of his death, ‘I would have loved to have asked him to adopt me!’ This echoes what St Athanasius wrote in his life of St Anthony the Abbot: ‘And so all the people of the village, and the good men with whom he associated saw what kind of man he was, and they called him “The friend of God”. Some loved him as a son, and others as though he were a brother.’