Fr Renato Mario Alonso Paras, former Parish Priest of St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill and first chaplain to the Filipino Catholic community in Australia, died today 26 October 2021 at Melva McDonald Lodge, Rooty Hill, aged 84.
Born in Cebu City in the Philippines on 12 September 1938, Fr Renato was ordained to the priesthood on 3 December 1967. He was incardinated to the Diocese of Parramatta in 1995, having arrived in the Diocese in 1993.
Prior to that, he had served as the first Filipino Catholic chaplain in Australia for the growing number of Filipino migrants to Australia. Assigned to work in Australia by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Missionaries, he arrived here in November 1980. Soon after arriving, he celebrated the first-ever Filipino Mass held in Australia on 1 January 1981, before being certified by Cardinal James Freeman as Chaplain of the Filipino in NSW in February the same year.
During this time, he was instrumental in the formation of the Filipino Catholic Organisation of Sydney (FILCOS) designed to promote strong Christian values amongst the Filipino migrant community.
His first role in the Diocese of Parramatta was as Assistant Priest at Christ the King Parish in North Rocks in 1993. He then served as Parish Priest at St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Springwood from 1996 to 1998. His last appointment in the Diocese was as Parish Priest of St Aidan’s Parish Rooty Hill from 1998 until his retirement in 2011.
In November 2017, Fr Renato celebrated 50 years since his ordination to the Divine Word Missionaries in the Philippines in 1967.
In 2019 Fr Renato was interviewed about his life.
“I have fond memories of my time in active priestly ministry,” he explained. “I am thankful to have been of service, to you, the people of God.
“Thank you for welcoming me into your lives and allowing me the privilege of sharing the joyful moments and the difficult times in your lives.”
In your charity, please pray for the Repose of the Soul of Fr Renato and remember his family in your prayers.
Funeral details will be announced in due course.
In 2011 an article was published in Catholic Outlook on the retirement of Fr Renato. You can read it below.
Born a travelling man: Fr Renato Paras
By Virginia Knight
Some of us are born to travel and after almost 13 years as parish priest of St Aidan’s Parish at Rooty Hill, Fr Renato Paras has completed another stage in an adventurous life and is contemplating new horizons.
His recent retirement from full-time parish ministry was acknowledged with a parish gathering on 11 September. Fr Renato was the principal celebrant for the Mass, which was concelebrated by Monsignor Robert McGuckin VG EV representing Bishop Anthony and Fr Alan Layt (St Aidan’s new parish priest). A number of priests and more than 400 guests gathered in the parish hall for lunch.
Several weeks later about 140 people came together for a parish evening function. The program included singing by the vigil choir, entertainment by the youth and a traditional dance performed by the local Samoan community.
The Filipino community honoured Fr Renato in a biographical play staged at the Hills Centre in Baulkham Hills on 22 October, which covered significant moments in his life and reflected on his time as their chaplain.
Bishop Anthony also presided at a Mass of Thanksgiving on 30 October in St Patrick’s Cathedral, which was concelebrated by two of Fr Renato’s classmates from the Philippines as well as a number of Filipino and other priests.
Born to Jesus and Leonora Paras on 12 September 1938 in Cebu City in the Philippines, Renato was the eldest of four children. He attended elementary school at St Theresa’s College, Cebu, and completed high school at the University of San Carlos. He majored in Philosophy at Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City graduating in 1959 and earned his BSE Degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1961.
He entered the Divine Word Major Seminary in Tagaytay to study for the priesthood and was ordained on 3 December 1967. His original choice of career was to follow the family tradition and become a doctor, but inspired by the mission of Fr Bernard Wrocklage SVD, he chose to become a missionary priest, travelling the world and preaching the Lord’s message.
He was sent to South Mindoro province in the Philippines to Nauhan, a primitive little community of 20 small villages. He travelled from village to village, week to week celebrating Mass and ministering to the community.
“It was tiring work, but as a newly ordained priest the adrenalin was always up,” Fr Renato said. He was transferred to Pinamalayan and later Puerto Galera on the other side of the island … more villages, more travel and still very busy.
But it was later as he worked in Looc and Mamburao and had to cross the sea to reach some of the remote islands that he found his niche. “I love the sea and had my own boat, a palm boat with sails and an outrigger to get across, visiting the villages in the bayous.”
In 1980 he was assigned to pastoral work in Sydney, arriving on 12 November, and in February 1981 became the first Filipino chaplain in Australia. “The SVD Society was looking for a priest who could minister to the Filipino people as there was already a big number living in Australia.”
He began celebrating Mass in several Sydney suburbs – each week in a different area. It was much like his time in the Philippines, travelling from one community to another, as far afield as Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
“I have never been still for God. Like St Paul, I love to travel and live an adventurous life.”
Fr Renato served as Filipino chaplain for 12 years travelling across Australia and continuing this ministry when he became incardinated in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.
After a term as assistant priest at Christ the King Parish at North Rocks, he was appointed parish priest at St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Springwood before being appointed to St Aidan’s in Rooty Hill.
“Being a parish priest was lonely at first after living in community as a religious. In the Philippines, from the time you are born till the time of your death there is always someone with you – family or friends. You are never alone.
“As the parish priest, people come to you if something happens in their lives. It is when you are in a parish that you really do your priestly work. It is in a parish that you meet the different needs of the people and practice the sacraments – marriage, baptisms, and death.
“Apart from the loneliness, sometimes the most difficult part of being a priest is living up to your vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience … giving up things for the sake of God, the Gospel and the kingdom of God. To be faithful to those vows is challenging.”
But Fr Renato said we need to encourage young men to take up that challenge. “The nobility, the dignity of the priesthood and the privilege God gives us to celebrate Holy Mass and preside over the sacraments, is something which no ordinary man can do, unless he is a priest. I take this very seriously. It is not something just in passing but our work and our eternal life. I say trust in God, do things for God.”
Fr Renato was once quite a sportsman and now hopes to devote some of his free time to hiking. He loves music and playing the violin.
“There are many parishes and they need priests to help out. I am retired but not tired, and there will be opportunities to continue helping parishes and people.”
In retirement, Fr Renato will once again be travelling for God, doing the work of a priest across the Diocese of Parramatta.