Loyal and loving service to the people of Granville
Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - Introduction for the Funeral Mass for Fr Les Campion, Holy Trinity Parish, Granville, Tuesday 25 March 2014
Welcome all to this Funeral Mass for our dear father and brother, Les Campion, a priest of Jesus Christ for nearly 64 years, Pastor Emeritus of this Parish, holder of the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. It is fitting that his funeral Mass is celebrated here in the church and parish that he called home for more than three decades.
I acknowledge the bishops emeriti of Parramatta, Most Rev Kevin Manning and Most Rev Bede Heather, the Vicar General Very Rev Fr Peter Williams VG EV, Fr Clifford D’Souza MSFS, Administrator of the Parish, and Fr Jerzon, Fr Eric Burton and Fr David Scott who were ordained with Les, Fr Peter Blayney his dear friend who will preach today, and other concelebrating priests. I also acknowledge Mr Tony Issa MP, State Member for Parramatta, and Cr Paul Garrard, Deputy Lord Mayor of Parramatta.
I also welcome members of Fr Les’ family: his sister, Eileen, and her two daughters, Anne-Maree Butler and Pauline Lawton. Ann-Maree’s husband, John, and two daughters Emma and Evangeline are also here. I acknowledge with great pleasure also Fr Les’ cousins, Fr Ed Campion and Sr Mary Campion OP. Also with us today is Mr John Hennessey, President of the Granville Memorial Trust, representing the victims and survivors of the Granville train disaster in January 1977 where 83 lives were lost and 213 seriously injured. Father Les was the first minister of religion to arrive at the scene to provide physical and spiritual support, and he took part in the memorial services held annually thereafter. To all of you the beloved parishioners and friends of this great pastor: a very warm welcome.
Rev Fr Peter Blayney - Homily for the Requiem Mass of Rev Fr (Michael) Leslie Campion, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Granville, Tuesday 25 March 2014
When Father Michael Leslie Campion was born on 27 August 1926 in a private hospital at Parramatta, his parents James and Bridget had only lived in their house in Merrylands Road for about six months, having emigrated from Ireland. With no lack of respect I shall refer to Fr Campion as Les because that is the name his mother called him from birth. Michael was the name used at his baptism to satisfy the need for a saint’s name. He used to say that he shared his birthday with Don Bradman and Mother Teresa, but wondered why he never got a mention.
In spite of not being a Dominican, one of Les’ talents was his ability to strike the right note when preaching at funerals. With apologies to St Luke, it is enough to strike fear in faint hearts looking after those things which are coming (Lk 21:26). In Chapter XVII (17) of his Rule (1221), St Francis of Assisi told the friars not to preach unless they had received the proper permission to do so. Then he added, “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” It is appropriate that we offer this Mass on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Les had a traditional, orthodox and loving devotion to the Mother of Jesus.
Church’s funeral liturgy
From the early Church until now, there is a beauty and a truth in Christian funeral rites. ‘At the death of a Christian, whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table, the Church intercedes on behalf of the deceased because of its confident belief that death is not the end nor does it break the bonds forged in life. The Church also ministers to the sorrowing and consoles them in the funeral rites with the comforting word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist’ (Order of Christian Funerals, 1998, n 4).
So, today, at these funeral rites for our priest and friend, we grieve, remember and pray for Les and for ourselves, so that our human needs may be met by the divine presence of our loving and merciful God.
Les’ family chose the gospel reading (Jn 11:17, 20-27, 33-45) about Lazarus because his niece, Ann-Maree, was reading this aloud to him when he died on Saturday 15th March around 4pm. It is one of John’s masterful passages, combining raw human emotion with the mystery of divine truths. If the weight in verses is anything to go by, notice that twenty-one (21) verses tell us about the frantic activity of the human players: Jesus himself, Martha, Mary and their Jewish friends, and how they react to the tragedy of Lazarus’ death. In verse 33, we see how Jesus’ own heart explodes with grief in the midst of his weeping. It is more than a sigh, but it does come straight from the heart.
There are only six (6) verses which give us the prophetic words of Jesus, the proclamations of faith, and the moments of revelation about the mystery of the resurrection: that the believer in Jesus lives even if he dies.
We who mourn share a variety of reactions to Les’ death, have our own thoughts, memories, sadness. There’s a messiness and confusion about all of this. Into the midst of this, the Lord gently comes and shares with us in a few words his comfort, peace and yes, even joy, at the death of a faithful Christian and priest.
I lived with Les in the recently demolished evangelical presbytery for nine (9) years during the 1990s. I worked full-time in the Tribunal at Parramatta, and assisted here where I could. Les always resisted my offers to help more with sacramental and pastoral ministry saying that I had enough to do at the Tribunal. I felt it was more to do with keeping the then young bloke out of his patch.
Verses 41 and 42 of today’s gospel summarise the basis of Les’ priesthood. Jesus says, ‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer’ (v 41), something Les did every day since his ordination on 22nd July 1950, and his “First Mass” here in the parish the next day. Jesus prays to the Father, ‘I speak for the sake of all those who stand round me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me’ (v 42).
Here Jesus is focused not on himself but on those he is sent to serve. Les had a well-deserved reputation for his care of others. This service to the gospel included the publicly spectacular day he spent in the wrecked carriages of the Granville Train disaster on 18th January 1977. This service to the gospel included the most private moments of forgiveness in the confessional. It was in celebrating the Eucharist, comforting the dying and celebrating Christian love at weddings, and teaching God’s love to our school students. He had a high regard for the Patrician Brothers and Sisters of Mary Queen. There were numerous people, especially those in desperate need, whom he assisted quietly and without fuss. There must be many other moments of self-sacrifice none of us know about. This is the ideal and the reality of the priesthood which Les lived out so faithfully for almost 64 years, which included 32½ years of loyal and loving service to the people of Granville.
I referred just now to the “evangelical presbytery”. It was the one with the heritage laundry, the 1920s wiring and plumbing, and original curtains. When my upstairs toilet and cistern fell off the wall, pouring streams of water into the kitchen on one Holy Thursday afternoon, Les agreed it was time to spend a little money to upgrade the plumbing. It took many months for him to get the gas reconnected to the stove so I could use it. To spend money on the presbytery was to give the impression the priests lived in luxury.
Yes, Les was in many ways financially astute, religiously conservative, single-minded and every so often quite stubborn about how he thought the best way to run the parish, no matter what his closest and trusted advisors suggested. You knew the answer was going to be no, if you got no further than the front veranda.
Australian poet David Malouf describes memory as ‘the dearest/and cheapest of luxuries/and of its kind one of our rarest gifts’ (Earth Hour, Penguin, 2014). Les accepted with a combination of confusion, frustration and grace the dwindling of his own memory over the last couple of years. His laconic sense of humour remained. His presence as priest was not diminished. The Rosary beads were always close by. If our memories are the dearest and the cheapest of luxuries, then we are richly blessed when we think of Les Campion.
The command of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus is our prayer for Les today: in the conviction and joy of our faith we ask our loving Lord – ‘Unbind him, let him go free’ (Jn 11:44).May he rest in peace. Amen.
Fr Les Campion Requiem Mass Photo Gallery
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