Monsignor John Boyle and Fr Chris Dixon are much-loved priests and well-known across the Diocese of Parramatta, having dedicated their lives to God and His people. And now, enjoying their retirement, they are grateful for the ties that continue to bind them to the lives of those they’ve served.
Supported by the Clergy Support Foundation and community generosity, both priests live in retirement accommodation provided by the Diocese, having stepped down from full-time parish ministry.
However, they remain active and busy, filling in for priests on leave, and engaging in other ministry as needed.
Mons John says he is grateful to still have strong social ties with former parishioners and others in the Diocese.
“I’m regularly invited out to dinner by my former parishioners,” he says. “They’re keen to look after me. I feel like I’m still in their community, even though I’m no longer there 24/7.
“I’m more than happy to do anything our Father’s Church asks, as I still feel very connected to our Diocese’s people. If I can still be of service, that’s my vocation and commitment.”
Mons John, who was born and raised in Parramatta, was ordained in 1971 for the Archdiocese of Sydney, serving first as assistant priest at Gymea, then Darlinghurst, The Entrance, Ryde, Concord, Kogarah, Haberfield, and Castle Hill.
When Sydney Archdiocese was split up to form the new Dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay in 1986, Mons John became part of the Diocese of Parramatta, where he was serving as parish priest of Westmead parish. He also went on to serve as parish priest at Parramatta, Seven Hills, and Castle Hill.
During his years in active ministry, he was appointed to the Council of Priests, was Dean for the Hills Deanery, and Vicar for Health and Chaplaincies. Monsignor John served as a Reserve Chaplain in Air Force from September 1984 until December 2011. He was made a Monsignor in 2014, and his final appointment before retirement was in Rome as Rector of Domus Australia.
Mons John says that while he remains busy and active in retirement, he is deeply thankful to be able to live in the Diocesan accommodation for retired priests, which is supported by the Clergy Support Foundation, and to receive the care of the Diocesan Clergy Health and Wellbeing Team.
“It brings out a huge sense of gratitude in me, that we’re able to live in this comfortable place, and have people who come to make sure we’re safe and well,” he says.
The Clergy Health and Wellbeing team is headed by Dr Mark Buhagiar and supported by Clergy Healthcare Coordinators, Elizabeth Hanrahan and Ellen Small. Together, they attend to the needs of the Diocese’s 21 retired priests and those clergy in ill-health.
Fr Chris Dixon says he too is grateful to be supported so well in retirement.
“It’s a joy to be able to retire and to live as we do. It’s quite a privilege,” he says.
“I’m deeply thankful for the generosity of the people in our Diocese.”
Fr Chris was ordained in 1970 for the Archdiocese of Sydney and served as assistant priest at Gladesville, Penrith, Randwick, Forest Lodge, Earlwood, and Mt Druitt: as well as administrator at Terrigal.
He was serving as assistant priest at Penrith when the Diocese of Parramatta was formed and then as assistant priest at Castle Hill.
As the founding parish priest at Kenthurst, Fr Chris’ role was to form the community and build the church hall and schools. He kick-started the idea of a new and bigger church to accommodate the growing faith community. Current parish priest, Fr Vincent Savarimuthu, picked up the idea and ran with it, bringing about the building of a new church, which was officially blessed and opened by Bishop Vincent in 2019.
Following an appointment at North Rocks, Fr Chris spent 18 months working in the Diocese of Wilcannia-Forbes, concurrently with his role as administrator at South Baulkham Hills, prior to his retirement.
Fr Chris says one of the most important things to him about living in retirement is the opportunity to provide ongoing spiritual guidance.
“The privilege of being able to tell people your own experience of getting to know Jesus, that, to me, is sharing something sacred and wonderful,” he says.
Mark Buhagiar says the Clergy Support Foundation Father’s Day Appeal is an opportunity to return the love and care of our priests by supporting them during their retirement.
“Our priests have looked after us in parishes for their whole life, including the important moments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation, and Marriage,” he said.
“So, this is our opportunity, as Catholics and as parishioners, to show our gratitude and care for those who have cared for us, when they need us.”
To donate to the Clergy Support Foundation’s Father’s Day Appeal, please call (02) 8838 3482 or visit parracatholic.org/fathersdayappealco