Farewell Speech to Fr Pearce

By Bernard Mulholland

My name is Bernard Mulholland and as the Chair of the Holy Family Parish Pastoral Advisory Board, it falls to me to say a few words on behalf of parishioners to farewell Father Nicholas Pearce our Parish Priest as he leaves Holy Family Mount Waverley.

You might recall that I have also farewelled Fr Laurence Cortez, Fr Michael Kelly, Deacon Malcolm Lock and Sister Kim Thrin. There seems to be a common factor at play in all of this but I haven’t quite worked out what it is. Needless to say that the new Parish Priest (whoever that might be), will not be looking forward to meeting me.

Father, when we heard the news that you were leaving, there was much sadness and disappointment amongst the parishioners. Sadness because we have had relatively such a short time together since you first came to us as our Administrator and later, our Parish Priest. As Howard Keel once sang, we’ve been sobbin buckets of tears.

Fr Pearce arrived at Holy Family in 2015 following the departure of Fr Cortez and was appointed into the role of Parish Administrator, which he took on with great zeal and determination.

One of the penultimate actions of former Archbishop Denis Hart was to appoint Fr Pearce as Parish Priest for Holy Family Mount Waverley in 2017. This is usually a 6-year appointment however as you have heard, circumstances at St Michael’s in North Melbourne were such that Archbishop Comensoli asked Fr Pearce to consider a move. You will appreciate that a request when you have taken a vow of obedience to your Archbishop doesn’t leave you much wriggle room. What is interesting is that we have now lost our past two Parish Priests to St Michaels, albeit different locations. An interesting coincidence.

As the Chair of the PPAB, I have had the pleasure of working directly with Fr Pearce over the past 5 years. He has always been generous with his time despite working for the Vocations office as well as running the Parish, coupled with the demands of studying and chaplaincy to the Melbourne University. Your energy and enthusiasm are well known to us all. This no doubt stems from your rather youthful age however, we at Holy Family have been the fortunate recipients of your outstanding organisational abilities whether it be our Christmas celebrations and Easter Ceremonies or the two monster fetes that were conducted during your tenure.

Spiritually, you have been very active with the regular scheduling of the Mass, sacraments and adoration of the Cross. You arranged the visitation of the Pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima and for the Parish Mission to be held in early 2018 with Fr Antoine Thomas from New Zealand. You launched and continued the rollout of the Alpha program which aids in Christian development for new and not so new parishioners and despite the lock down of the State in the fight against Covid 19 which closed our Church for many months, you continued to engage directly with us through the electronic media and the wonderful series of Zoom presentations held on Sunday mornings on the Eucharist, the Holy Land and currently, the series on the Blessed Virgin Mary. In a time when we the parishioners have been separated from the Church, you found ways to keep us connected and growing in our spirituality. You encouraged our continuing support of the Korean Catholics of Melbourne availing them the use of our facilities for their home. Their presence at Holy Family continues to inspire us.

Although you have only been with us for 5 years, there have been a number of structural improvements at the Parish which you have been instrumental in achieving such as bringing the Parish into compliance with new Child Safety Act and Regulations with the implementation of policies and procedures to address these requirements for all our Parish activities and which also saw the reconfiguration of the Confessional and Altar Servers room. There was the creation of the new Parish Library and meeting room, which has been put to extreme good use by a multitude of parish groups. The Columbarium development, which further extended the existing peace garden and created a place of lasting connection between our forebears and current parishioners also formalised the opportunity for parishioners to be later interred in the grounds of their own Church. The kitchen and presbytery renovations have made the Parish house far more useable and comfortable for Priests and staff alike. Sorry Father, you can’t take the new kitchen with you to North Melbourne but we will send you Parish Raffle tickets.

In 2018, while Parish Priest, we celebrated our 60th anniversary as a Parish. A ball was held at the Riversdale Golf Club and in spite of numbers being capped at 130, we still crammed in 150 new and old parishioners into the venue. Again, your organisational ability was on display and it was a great night with lots of dancing and reminiscing and a fitting celebration of our 60 years as a Parish.

You were instrumental in creating the opportunity for the Frassati Fraternity to take up residency in Mount Waverley. While creating the mechanism for a number of young men to live together and practice their Christian faith, their presence and involvement at Holy Family Parish has brought many advantages and blessings. You have also encouraged the development of youth and young adult groups, and conducted 2 Camino de Santiago walks during your time with us. You also showed a keen interest in the spiritual growth of our primary school children. Parishioners may have noticed the little spoon farm in the school garden near the exit from the Carpark and the rather large spoon no doubt depicting Fr Pearce.

This is reflective of the care and connection you made with our Primary school. I am sure that the school is going to miss the coffee stall that you provided at the start of each year. Equally, I believe that the Café shops of Mount Waverley will now go into serious decline.

Your care and attention to us, your parish family, your visitation of our sick and elderly, the provision of the Mass and sacraments, your energy, enthusiasm, skill and organisational ability, these are so very much appreciated by your parishioners. We can’t thank you enough and we wish you every success at St Michael’s and in your vocation to the Priesthood. Together, we have achieved a lot under your strong and energetic leadership.

We at Holy Family have, of course, been extremely fortunate to have Father Patrick Bradford recently appointed to the Parish which will somewhat smooth the transition between Parish Priests. A very warm welcome to you Father Bradford. We commit our support to you.

Father Pearce, you leave us today knowing that your job is done. You can be proud of what you have achieved as Administrator and Parish Priest at Holy Family. You take with you our heartfelt thanks, love and prayers. No doubt you will look up at the congregation at St Michael’s from time to time and see some of us visiting. From all your family here at Holy Family, so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu.