Three days of it, although only two were really planned. Saturday was at the parish in Caringbah where Fr. Kerry had spent 25 of his 50 years of priestly ministry. The church was packed, seating 600 people when full. The music was extraordinary, the parish choir and a visiting Vietnamese choir. As well, there were some 20 priests in attendance from the archdiocese and the shire. Kerry’s siblings and their spouses were present. And all gathered to give thanks to God and to Kerry for 50 years of dedicated ministry. At the very start of the liturgy, he called to mind his parents and their loving presence and guidance in his life. He paused as his voice wavered. But he took a deep breath and gently thanked everyone for the moving tribute of their presence.

Fr. David gave the homily, speaking of the shepherd Jesus Christ after whom all priests and pastors pattern their ministry.

After communion, a slide presentation came on the video screen in the sanctuary, recalling his youth, his early days in the seminary, his ordination and ministry in various parishes in the archdiocese. Interspersed among these were photos of his parents, his family and close friends. This is truly the life of a priest, rooted in what is human and Christian first. Without that foundation, grace cannot build.

Nick and I at the reception in Keller Hall.

Fr. Kerry addressing the troops in response to Sr. Sandra, who came all the way from Chicago to celebrate his Jubilee.

Sr. Sandra, Fr. Kerry, Sr. Lucille at the RSL in Gladesville for the celebration with family and friends on Sunday.

On Sunday we gathered at Gladesville, the church where Kerry and his family grew up. It was here he served mass and received some of his sacraments. Here his younger siblings were baptized. Here he celebrated their weddings. Here they celebrated their parents’ funerals. It was here he celebrated his first thanksgiving mass fifty years ago. Now he returned to give thanks once again. And some in the assembly were present at that mass fifty years ago. Again the music was moving and grand. Bishop Geoff, a dear friend and classmate, preached. And we all agreed with him, Fr. Kerry is definitely one of the most decent human beings we have all been blessed to know.

Marie’s cake at the celebration on Sunday, a work of art indeed.

Kerry and his brothers: Michael, Frank and Gerard.

The man of the hour at the close of the day … well, before heading to Gerard and Colleen’s for the after party with family, rejoicing and giving thanks well into the evening …

… with a meal of bangers (grilled sausages wrapped in sliced bread) … after more complicated meals earlier and the day before … but still, it was the company that made the difference … it mattered little what was served.

Today, Monday, we took a drive up to Windsor in honor of Kerry’s mum, where we had some lunch and foraged for souvenirs.

King’s Cross in downtown Sydney as we rode through the city.

Before heading off to Gerard and Colleen’s for the last family meal (Fr. Kerry, Marie & Michael, Gae & Bob, Noni & Frank, Colleen & Gerard, Libby, Tom, Sr. Sandra, Sr. Lucille and me) we stopped at the cemetery to lay flowers at Kerry’s parents’ grave.

It has been a wonderful 15 days in OZ. I head home to Virginia tomorrow afternoon. And I look forward to my return … I know not when. I have truly enjoyed Kerry’s family who have taken me in as one of their own. I love their warmth and joy in the simplicity and abundance of life’s blessings. They are a loud bunch when they gather. The stories never seem to end. And the parting takes a while. So I return home to summer and work and faithful struggle. It will be a while yet to my 50th. I hope I can look back upon these years with thanksgiving and gladness. God will always be faithful. I pray I will be too.

Thank you Kerry. And thanks to all your family.