Fr. John Langtry

Fr John Langtry is one of our retired priests.

He first began his priestly ministry as the Assistant Priest in Harris Park. He continued on in many parishes including ones in Meadowbank, Mosman and even travelled overseas to New Guinea. He was also called to start the parish in Bonnyrigg Heights which included both the Primary and High School. Even after retiring he still continues to be a source of light to those that he has encountered over his 58 years as a priest.

The following interview with Father John was conducted on 27 August 2019. We hope you enjoy the transcript.

What led you to take up this vocation?
It goes back to when I was a very small boy and the parish priest at the time, picked me up from kindergarten and took me to all of the farms to where he was taking Holy Communion to the old
people. I thought to myself, I want to be that man and it’s been the same ever since. I was 6 and I’m now 81.

Did your family play a role?
Yes, very much so. I come from a deeply Catholic family with my eldest sister being a nun. We’re all very committed to our faith.

What do you believe is the most rewarding thing about being a priest?
Weekend Masses are always incredibly important to me. They finish off the week that has gone and set us up for the week coming. That’s a pretty obvious answer. There are other things like the people themselves and the various commitments that were made by different people to take on different tasks. In other words, you’re not alone and if you don’t work with the people, then you don’t really do the job properly. You enter the priesthood to work with and for people. They’re God’s people and we’re just trying to serve them as best we can. Without them the priesthood would be a very dull place.

We noticed that you were asked to start a Parish in Bonnyrigg Heights. Was this one of the more rewarding times throughout your priestly ministry?
Yes, it was but I’ve never considered the work that was visibly made available at Bonnyrigg Heights as very much to do with me. It wouldn’t have mattered what priest was there, all of that would have happened, maybe in slightly different ways, but it would have happened. My heart was in that place, and so whatever did take place I fully supported it. But I can hardly say that I did it. They did it. I was just there to be there when it happened.

How important do you think it is for priests to help shape the faith of our students in Catholic Schools?
It’s very important. I would spend part of every day in the staff room or on the playground just letting them know that the Priest is here.

Have you worked in other communities, outside of Australia?
Yes, I spent 6 years in New Guinea. I often say that in New Guinea the boy was made a man. It was such a unique experience. I still look at New Guinea as a very major part of my priestly life, and of my own personal life too.

How do you feel New Guinea has shaped your time as a priest?
It made me more open to people and it made me less judgmental. I went to New Guinea thinking I was going to convert the world for three years. I went back for the second lot of three years and I realised that they were teaching me, and that became a big factor in my life. These people I’m working with, they’re teaching me as I’m trying to teach them.

As a retired priest now, how grateful are you now for the ongoing support of the Priests’ Retirement Foundation?
Marvelously grateful. We have between 70 and 80 priests now retired. Most of them do not have the means to support their retirement. The Priests’ Retirement Foundation has taken up an awful lot of that and has made it so much easier for retired priests. Look at me here. I don’t pay the rent. I don’t pay the electricity. I don’t pay the water. That’s all paid by the Priests Retirement Foundation. I’m blessed. Absolutely blessed. And I think virtually all the retired priests would say the same thing. We’re very grateful that the organisation was set up. I couldn’t imagine any other way that would be of such great assistance to retired priests than this particular foundation, so I am very grateful to it.

How has the Priests’ Retirement Foundation helped you?
I don’t know where or what I’d be if this wasn’t set up. It takes away all the day to day concerns that we priests might have. We priests think that parents these days have the toughest job in the world. They say, “but what about you, Father? You’ve lived on your own for all these years and have not had the support that you would have liked to have had”, and may be, but I think for those that have retired as priests are very grateful for all the assistance that has been given to us.

Is there anything else that you would like to tell the parishioners of Sydney?
To the parishioners of Sydney that are able to be generous to the Priests’ Retirement Foundation, all I can say is thank you and may the blessings of the Lord be with you for your kindness and generosity.

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