Australia’s first chaplain to the Filipino Catholic community has been lovingly farewelled.
The life and ministry of Fr Renato Paras, Pastor Emeritus of St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill, was celebrated during a Mass of Christian Burial on Thursday 4 November at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, was the principal celebrant of the Mass at St Patrick’s Church, alongside priests and deacons of the Diocese of Parramatta and the Greater Sydney area.
The church was filled at COVID capacity as family, friends, parishioners and members of the Filipino Catholic community gathered to remember Fr Renato. Hundreds more paid their respects during the livestream on the Diocese of Parramatta’s Facebook page.
As the Chaplain of the Filipino community, certified by Cardinal James Freeman in 1981, he was instrumental in forming the Filipino Catholic Organisation of Sydney (FILCOS), Fr Renato served in the Diocese of Parramatta as parish priest of Christ the King Parish, North Rocks, St Thomas Aquinas Parish, Springwood, and St Aidan’s.
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“Today we honour the much-loved Fr Renato, who has completed his earthly pilgrimage of faith, hope and love,” Bishop Vincent said in his opening address.
“We join together with prayers for God’s blessing, reward, mercy and forgiveness for the repose of his soul.
“Today, however you may have known him, we gather to surround him with our love and to accompany Fr Renato in prayer and entrust him gently to the eternal, merciful and all-encompassing love of God himself.”
As the homilist, Fr Alan Layt, the current parish priest of St Aidan’s, described being honoured and privileged to share about Fr Renato, a man he has known since he was ordained as a deacon at Christ the King Parish over 25 years ago.
“We mourn the loss of Renato, a great priest and for many of us, a good friend, but it is also a time when we celebrate and rejoice in the work of God’s mercy in him.
“He’s a man who is very dynamic, he had a strong and powerful personality, and that was vital, because he was the first Filipino chaplain out here. He established, really, the Filipino Catholic community here – he was a key factor in getting a lot of that established.
“When he was in the parish of Rooty Hill, the parish was transitioning into becoming a majority Filipino parish, and he was able to unite that parish, keep all the people together, direct them, and in a sense, sustained it and increase it as a communion of persons united in Christ.
“And that is what a priest is about. As one of the people who stood up here and said this morning, he drew many people to Christ, and if that’s the only thing that’s said about me when I’m there [deceased], wonderful.
“I think he was a great priest, and my impression of him was that he was a holy priest.”
Fr Alan explained that although Fr Renato has left us, it is important that we continue to pray for him, as through him, he will assist others in their spiritual journey to heaven.
“When we pass away, we are set free from our bodies of original sin and death, and because of the gift of the Spirit, we look to the Resurrection of the Body, which constitutes the fullness of salvation.
“At the point of death, God intents to pour Himself into us, fill us with Himself so that we can enter into that union of love of the Trinity, which is heaven, which is the beatific vision. That’s what’s happened with him [Fr Renato], you don’t get sad about that.
“He [Fr Renato] reminds us of the hope that we have.
“We turn to Our Lady and ask her to bless him, to guide him on his way, and she does what mothers do, stand beside him.
“Let us pray, as St Josemaría [Escrivá] did, that the most just and loveable will of God may be done and fulfilled both now and forever, in Renato and ourselves, Amen.”
On behalf of his family, Fr Renato’s nephew Thomas Baena shared how whenever he would visit his uncle, he always went home very full.
“It is because it is a manifestation of everyone’s love to him. He was well loved, and today, we honour him and we say goodbye to him.”
Ev, who was watching the livestream, posted, “Let perpetual light shine on Fr Renato Paras and may he rest in peace.”
Another commenter, Rose, added, “Rest In Piece Fr Renato. Thank you for your inspiring faith and great love for God and parishioners.”
Following Mass, Fr Renato was interred at Pinegrove Cemetery in Minchinbury.
Fr Paras was born on 12 September 1938 in Cebu City, the Philippines. He was ordained to the priesthood on 3 December 1967 and was incardinated to the Diocese of Parramatta in 1993.
Fr Renato served the Diocese of Parramatta until 2011. In his retirement, he lived at Ezekiel Moreno Aged Care Facility in Croydon and Melva McDonald Lodge, Rooty Hill. He passed away on Tuesday 26 October at the age of 84.
In your charity, please pray for the Repose of the Soul of Fr Renato and remember his family in your prayers.
Watch the Mass of Christian Burial for Fr Renato Paras here.
View images from the Mass of Christian Burial here or below.