BLESSED CAREER: Father Paul Pidcock will be leaving St John's College, Woodlawn after spending more than 60 years working at the school.
BLESSED CAREER: Father Paul Pidcock will be leaving St John's College, Woodlawn after spending more than 60 years working at the school. Marc Stapelberg

Beloved priest to retire after 60 years

BELOVED Marist Priest, Fr Paul Pidcock SM said he never doubted what his vocation was and was "blessed with a faith that helped (him) all through (his) life".

Now, after more than 60 years as a priest, and at 87 years old he has just a few weeks before he retires.

The St John's College, Woodlawn community is preparing to celebrate the contribution of Fr Pidcock at his farewell mass in November, after more than six decades of study and service at the College. 

 

World War II was still raging when young Paul Pidcock first arrived as a 12-year-old boarding student to St John's College in 1944.

Fr Pidcock recalled it was a time when war was very much part of people's concerns - "we had rationing, we had to bring our ration books, that was for meat and sugar and butter, and when we went home for the holidays we had to take our ration books home with us". 

"I remember one term, there was about two weeks to go and they said there would be no more butter until next term because we had run out of butter coupons - that wasn't very well received," he said. 

With war ended he realised his educational experience had been shaped by the Marist Priests. 

"They taught me, worked with me, produced musicals and ran the cadets. They'd done everything and I decided that's what I would like to do," he said. 

 

Fr Pidcock's Ordination at St Patrick's, Church Hill in Sydney in 1956
Fr Pidcock's Ordination at St Patrick's, Church Hill in Sydney in 1956

Paul went to the Marist seminary in Toongabbie in 1949 and was ordained at St Patrick's, Church Hill in Sydney in 1956 before he was appointed to St John's College in 1957, which saw the beginning of work in various roles as a teacher, Spiritual Director, Choir Master, Bursar and producer of the college musicals over 13 years.

"I was in the musicals when I was a student here, and then when I came back - they used to put on a Gilbert and Sullivan every year," he recalled. 

The 1970's saw Fr Pidcock in various roles in Tasmania and California before returning to St John's College, Woodlawn in 1979 as Bursar and later as Superior of the Marist Community. 

Woodlawn became a coeducational day school in 2000.

At this time Fr Pidcock was invited to be the College Chaplain and he has remained in that role to this day.

"That was a big change with the coming of the girls - the whole nature of the school changed. But since that time the college has gone from strength to strength.

 

St John's College Woodlawn students form a 60 outside the College Chapel on the College grounds to celebrate Fr Pidcock's 60th anniversary of ordination in 2016.
St John's College Woodlawn students form a 60 outside the College Chapel on the College grounds to celebrate Fr Pidcock's 60th anniversary of ordination in 2016.

"When I came as a student we had 120 boarders but now we have just under 800 students."

 

Over 12 years from 2000, he took on a part time role as Chaplain at the Grafton Correctional Centre.

"I really see that as a very important and worthwhile ministry, I never felt threatened or in danger. I found if you gave people respect they would give you respect. I got on very well with the inmates," he said. 

Over his long history with the college, Fr Pidock believes that times have certainly changed but students generally remain the same. 

"I have been impressed with their generosity and commitment of students, with the numbers of students volunteering in the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Social Justice Committee, and groups concerned about climate change, they volunteer in Cambodia, they fundraise for different things, they go to the Soup Kitchen before school, and those who are over 18 donate blood, so there are a lot of good things happening. 

"Students are students and I just love being here with them and supporting them, and learning from them. It's been a wonderful experience for me." 

In reflecting upon his upcoming farewell Fr Pidcock said he is grateful for all the things staff have done for him over the years, "especially my Jubilee of Priesthood and my upcoming farewell, so I want to thank them sincerely".  

"As for retirement plans, my health is good. I will be living in a community at Hunters Hill. There will be about 17 priests there, all retired.

"I see that I will be able to help the community because I can drive, some of our priests have retired to nursing homes and I can visit them and be a presence there. 

"There is a Parish at Hunters Hill and I might get involved with some of the things there, but especially at St Patrick's at Church Hill...I would like to contribute in a meaningful way with some of our work."

The farewell celebration is open to all members of the public and will be held at St John's College, Woodlawn on Sunday, November 25 at 11am. RSVP by Monday, November 5 for catering purposes via an online form https://bit.ly/2QaYvh4 or by contacting the College on 02 66 262600.



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