He had developed pneumonia in the last day or so and this rapidly took hold of him. All the great fight that he had demonstrated over the past six weeks (really, two years) was over. He had no resistance left and he was at peace.
Tony always appreciated the messages, phone calls, visits, prayers and encouragement he received from so many of you.
True to this, his last words to me when I left him last night were to thank me for being there. Our younger brother, Greg, was with Tony this morning when he died. This is just one of the many blessings that have been ours as we have journeyed with him.
Tony's funeral will be celebrated in St Mary's Cathedral Sydney next Wednesday 30 October at 10.30am. Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne will be Chief Celebrant. He has been a friend of Tony's from seminary days. Unfortunately, Cardinal Pell, who was also a classmate, will still be overseas.
Many people have asked for the details of Tony's funeral and I would ask that you pass this information on to those who might require it.
Thank you for your kindness, messages of prayers and sympathy. They provide great comfort. And, in turn, as a family, we offer you our condolences on the passing of your pastor, colleague and friend.
Brother Peter Ryan FSP wrote in mid-September:
Bishop Tony made a final visit to his beloved Turingi Parish and outlying communities last Sunday 1 September. He anticipated it would be his last pastoral visit and planned to leave Wewak on 14 September, having celebrated a thanksgiving Mass in his cathedral mid-week.
During the week, however, he developed an extremely serious infection in his left leg. It was potentially life-threatening. He suffered cyclical bouts of high fever which greatly lessened his already weak condition. He endured everything with great patience and even occasional jokes.
His sister Anne and brother Greg arrived from Australia on Friday 6 September and travelled back with him on a special flight on Sunday 8th. Tony left an inspiring good-bye message for the people of the diocese. It was read on the same day at town parish Masses.
My dear People,
I wish to share with you one of the hardest decisions of my life. In July, when I reached
the official retirement age for bishops of 75 years, I wrote a letter of resignation to the
Holy Father in Rome. My fervent hope was that I would be able to hand over care of the Diocese and its people to the new Bishop. I had hoped to remain on until the new bishop arrived.
However, God had other plans. The cancer which has made me ill over the recent years has made the joy of remaining with you impossible to sustain. I have spoken to the Nuncio, His Excellency Michael Banach, and informed him of my need to return to Australia for medical attention.
I believe I am no longer able to serve you as you deserve. Taking the lead from our
recent Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, I have decided that your wellbeing is more
important than my personal wishes. So I am returning to Australia for good. My brother
and sister have come to accompany me on my journey home.
To each of you, priests, religious sisters and brothers, teachers, catechists, men, women and children, staff within the Mission office, I offer my humble and profound thanks.
You have trusted me to lead you. You have taught me many things. You have encouraged me over the years, and especially during the times of my illness. I have relied on the judgment and diligence of many of you, both in the office and around the diocese.
I have been privileged to spend nearly all my priestly life working here in Papua New
Guinea – over 40 years. You are my family. You have helped nurture my faith.
The process for appointing a new Bishop for our Diocese of Wewak is underway. In the
meantime, we must all wait patiently and pray for guidance of the Holy Spirit. I leave you
in the experienced care of the priests, religious and lay women and men leaders of our
Diocese. I know you will support them in their work.
Continue to care for each other, to treasure your faith and work together to build up the
Church of Jesus Christ here in Wewak, for the glory of God and the good of all people of this country. To our Priests especially I say, take care of your people, teach
well, build your communities and be witnesses to the Gospel in your lives.
I am going from here but I will always carry you in my heart and pray for you.
Bishop of Wewak,
7th September 2013