Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thank you, Lord, for Father Warren Wade

Father Warren Wade at the altar of the chapel 
at Lady Davidson Private Hospital, North Turramurra, Sydney, 
where the TAC parish of St Mary the Virgin 
used to gather for their Sunday Mass. 
(Thank you to Father Anthony Murley 
- one time Assistant to Father Warren - 
for the photo!)

Early Monday morning, Australian time, Father Warren Wade died peacefully in his sleep. He had been ill with cancer for a number of months. Father Warren, 80 yrs of age, was most recently Parish Priest of the Parish of the Holy Cross in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

I had met Father Warren many years ago, but came to know him well as a friend during the time when he and his TAC parish (centred on the chapel of the Lady Davidson Private Hospital, North Turramurra, Sydney) was part of my episcopal responsibility from 2005 to 2010. Father Warren and I continued to stay in contact with each other since then. Indeed, he really cared for me and encouraged me. And that's why I want to honour him here. 

Father Warren grew up in Sydney with a variety of religious experiences, not least his early schooling with the nuns at Maroubra. It was there that he got used to Benediction every Friday afternoon, and - as he often said - his love of being in the Lord’s Sacramental presence never left him. Then, as a young man he discovered Christ Church St Laurence at Central Railway Station in Sydney in the days of Father John Hope, and was drawn to High Mass as well as to Solemn Evensong and Benediction; and then for a while he worshipped at St James, King Street. 

Father Warren was ordained in 1961 by the Bishop of Bathurst, and joined the Brotherhood of the Good Shepherd, one of the orders in which laymen and clergy took temporary vows in order to extend the Church's outreach and care to isolated people across the outback. In an interview he gave a couple of years ago, Father Warren explained this particular ministry which in those days was so so vital to the Anglican Church of Australia: 

“We were known as the Bush Brothers. We used to minister to far-out places, beyond Bourke and out into the Northern Territory. Our ministry was bringing the Lord to people in far-flung places, staying on properties and celebrating Mass the next morning. People would come from 100 miles away. It was fun. Great fun.”

Following his years in the Brotherhood, Father Warren ministered at All Saints Cathedral Bathurst, and then in the parishes of Peak Hill and Cudal. During this time he and June were married, and they had two daughters, Anna-Maria and Christina.

Father Warren eventually became a Probation Officer with the Department of Corrective Services, blending his support of so many young people “at risk” who had no-one else they could turn to, with his priestly ministry in a range of parishes. 

Father Warren was an outstanding man of great faith and confidence in the goodness of the Lord, even in times of deep personal pain and suffering, and he enabled so many others to see the light of God’s love shining through the darkness of their own tragedies. I witnessed first hand the incredible reality of his walk with God in the days and weeks after that terrible car accident in which his daughter Christina was killed. In that same interview, Father Warren said:

“Some people asked me when that happened, ‘how do you keep your faith?’,” he says. “And I say, ‘if I didn’t have my faith, I wouldn’t be here, either mentally, emotionally or perhaps even physically.’” 

Father Warren was a wonderful example of devotion to the Lord and to those he loved, especially his wife June and their family, and also his parishioners. He blended with his solid Catholic Faith a tremendous Evangelical simplicity which was also part of his family heritage. You could hear that on his regular radio program of hymns from all traditions and his little chats in between that helped many shut-in and lonely people keep their eyes on Jesus. He knew how to lead people - sometimes difficult people - to the Lord, and he did it with everlasting patience and almost indulgence with those struggling to find their way. His ministry, going back to the Bush Brotherhood days, then in parishes, then as a priest who worked as a Probation Officer until his “retirement” and then his ministry in the TAC and most recently in the wider Church via the Anglican Ordinariate established by the Catholic Church . . . is altogether a beautiful trophy of God’s grace. 

Father Warren was one of many gentle “fair dinkum” Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Church of Australia for whom no understanding or alternative episcopal ministry was provided by the “liberal” leadership, and who faded away, out of sight, having felt themselves to have been “unchurched” by the latest departures from the Faith and Ministry we have always claimed to share with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches of East and West. But at a time of life when most people sit back and enjoy retirement, Father Warren continued to pour himself into loving ministry with his parish of Continuing Anglicans, most of whom became Roman Catholics when he joined the Ordinariate, accepting re-ordination (in December 2012) and - as he told me - knowing the joy of offering the Mass in full communion with the wider Catholic unity. He remained busy in the Lord’s service until the end.

I know how much he appreciated the loving support of the clergy and laypeople of St Patrick's Catholic Church at Gosford, long before any “Ordinariate” was thought of. He was always made to feel at home there. His funeral will take place at St Patrick's (76 York Street, East Gosford) at 1.30pm this Thursday 12th February.

We thank the Lord for Father Warren and all the love we received from him and through him. We pray for the completion of his healing and sanctification as he journeys to the fullness of the Lord’s glory, the victory over death that Jesus shares with all his people. We pray for June, Anna-Maria and the rest of their family. May they know the eternal God as their Refuge, and that "underneath are the Everlasting Arms." (Deuteronomy 33:27)

I am so grateful to have known this holy and loving man.


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