Not many things can inspire retirees to go back to an almost full-time working roster.
But for John McCartney, Business Manager at St John XXIII Parish Glenwood-Stanhope Gardens, the chance to help his parish strengthen and flourish got him back in the office.
John, who has served as Business Manager for six years, has decided to ‘properly retire’. He and his wife Jean are set to move to the warmer winters of Queensland.
“I enjoyed my time helping to nurture the then youngest parish in the Diocese of Parramatta, and, at the same time, growing in my own faith,” John told Catholic Outlook.
Growing up in South Africa and working for an international accountancy firm, John transferred to Australia, arriving with his family in Sydney. They became parishioners at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill, where he became a Reader and Eucharistic Minister. John and Jean got involved in the Antioch youth group, becoming the parent couple. “It fired up our faith,” he said.
As the family moved to Stanhope Gardens in 2005, John and Jean brought their passion for Antioch to the emerging parish.
“Antioch was welcomed in many ways because the parish priest at the time, Fr Paul Venticinque, had been in the first Antioch group in Australia. He was very supportive. A number of parishioners had been in various Antioch communities [around Sydney], so they also welcomed the group.”
Over the years, John and Jean ran the RCIA program and served on the Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Committee.
When Fr John McSweeney joined the parish in 2014, John offered his services and expertise on a pro bono basis, and the role of the Business Manager came to be.
“I believe the Business Manager or similar role is indispensable to today’s parish,” he says.
“They provide the business management support to the parish, freeing the priests and deacons to minister to the parish pastorally.
“It’s been a bit like that sticky glue that keeps the various parish ministries going – Finance, Human Resources, Maintenance, Communications and so on. The role needs to delegate the work, and not try to do it all on your own.
“The parish runs on a shoestring budget. Parish staff do an amazing job meeting the constant needs of parishioners,” John said.
Fr John McSweeney added, “I could never have foreseen how much work would be lifted from my shoulders by this very generous man.”
When asked about his proudest moments in his time at Stanhope Gardens, John said the construction of the Garden of Remembrance and Columbarium gave him a huge amount of joy.
“We started with our St John XXIII and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop columbarium walls, but they were fully reserved within weeks. Our current ‘Evangelist’ walls – Sts Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are now so popular, we have made them available to parishioners from other parishes.
“Seeing that built felt like I was building my own house,” he commented.
Seeing young people grow and develop their faith, leading them to World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, accompanying new Catholics through the RCIA program and attending the canonisation of St Pope John XXIII in Rome in 2014 have been life-changing and spiritually fulfilling for John.
“It has been a joy meeting so many people, particularly youth, who live out their faith ministering and giving to others.
“In my parish life, I have been inspired by many, from priests and deacons, to the person who sits quietly at Mass but does so much behind the scenes.
“My eternal thanks to Fr John [McSweeney] and so many other priests, such as the late Fr Dave Hume, who have been inspirational. Our parish staff have been tremendously supportive, as has my long-suffering wife of 43 years,” he said.
Ahead of his own departure to the Upper Blue Mountains Parish, Fr John said he enjoyed John’s company and enjoyed his stories about growing up in South Africa.
“He will be sorely missed, but I wish him and Jean all God’s blessings in their new life in Queensland,” Fr John said.
Moving into retirement, John, a lifelong photographer, is keen to continue his project of travelling Australia and photographing every existing church dedicated to St Patrick.
John explained that he will miss the friendship and support of his caring community, but knows that he will be forever a part of the parish.
In a sombre tone, he says, “Jean and I have niches on the Columbarium wall, as does Fr John.
“We all joked that parishioners would say ‘we’ll miss you’, and we’d tell them ‘don’t worry, we’ll be back’.”