Newcastle priest reaches end of song line

Described as a "passionate" priest by Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone, the late Fr Tony Stace followed a "song line" from Port Arthur to Cape York during a sabbatical pilgrimage and had his portrait displayed in a Centenary exhibition on the lawns of Parliament House in 2001.

"The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has lost a much loved pastor in Fr Tony Stace, who died on Thursday aged 66, after living with cancer for some years," Bishop Malone said in a statement.

Fr Stace had been parish priest of Forster, Broadmeadow and Booragul, earlier ministering in the parishes of Charlestown, Newcastle, Boolaroo, Cessnock and Krambach.

"All who met Fr Tony encountered a warm, invariably smiling, faith-filled man who took the gospel seriously," Bishop Malone said.

"He sought to reach out to those who might be overlooked, or whose needs were great, and he had a special love for ethnic and Indigenous communities.

"As parish priest of Broadmeadow, he welcomed Vietnamese, Tongans and Samoans in ways which honoured their culture and enriched the parish community. He established the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and the Catholic Diocesan Community Settlement Scheme for Refugees and Immigrants."

Bishop Malone also recalled that Indigenous artist Richard Campbell painted a portrait of Fr Stace for the Centenary of Federation exhibition, Peoplescape, which stood on the lawns around Parliament House in 2001.

"It featured Fr Tony wearing a stole, a priest's collar and a rainbow serpent with flags of some of the many nations whose people he had assisted.

"Fr Tony was a passionate fisherman, and parishioners often enjoyed the fruits of his efforts.

"'Come aside and rest awhile' was one of his favourite pieces of scripture, and fishing was an accurate metaphor for his life. He gathered others around him through the strength of his convictions, the warmth of his manner and the practical generosity he embodied."

In 1997 Fr Stace embarked on a spiritual journey, taking six months sabbatical leave.

His objective was "to travel alone on a type of 'song line' from Port Arthur to Cape York", Bishop Malone said.

"It has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life. It was truly a pilgrimage to a Holy Land," Fr Stace later said.

"Fr Tony's strong faith allowed him to accept his suffering and in fact to see it as a privilege. Even in hospital, he ministered to patients and staff as often as his own health allowed.

"Fr Tony was a thoroughly 'good bloke'. He was great company, loved people and wanted so much for them to know the God whom he knew and loved," Bishop Malone concluded.

Fr Stace was buried yesterday.

Statement from Bishop Michael Malone on the death of Fr Tony Stace (Maitland Newscastle diocese, Media Release, 6/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Maitland Newcastle diocese

Newcastle Catholic Social Justice Advocate to Appear in National Federation Exhibition (Maitland Newcastle, Media Release, 31/8/01)

9 Jul 2007