Hundreds of people filled Kensington’s Catholic church to farewell scholar and journalist Father Paul Stenhouse MSC yesterday.
The 84-year old Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest was editor of Annals Australasia magazine for four decades and an internationally respected expert in Samaritan Hebrew and Samaritan Arabic.
Ordained in 1963 he was appointed director of the Annals of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in 1964 and in 1966 became the editor of Annals and in 1971 established Chevalier Press.
From 1977-1981 Fr Stenhouse was the private secretary to the superior general of his order in Rome before returning to resume his media ministry as well as chaplaincy to migrant students. He also worked for many years for Aid to the Church in Need.
He died on 19 November at the Sacred Heart Hospice in Darlinghurst after years of suffering cancer and shortly after completing the final edition of the Annals which was also its 130th anniversary edition.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP was present at the Requiem Mass on 27 November along with nearly 30 members of clergy.
The church was filled to standing room only with Fr Stenhouse’s fellow religious, family members, friends and colleagues, while before the altar stood the coffin on which were placed symbols of his priestly and religious life as well as a copy of the final edition of Annals.
In the eulogy, Fr Stenhouse’s fellow religious and friend Fr Michael Fallon MSC spoke of the scholar’s “deep love for books” and “deep respect for people along with an unshakeable conviction of the place of the Catholic Church in Christianity”.
Along with an “incredible intelligence” his mind was “guided in ways Paul himself never realised by his sensitive heart”,” Fr Fallon said.
Many people had benefitted from his “loving, practical and committed care” he said.
“His heart was filled with love for God.
“Jesus was central to his life and he lived in his own unique way the spirituality of the Sacred Heart.”
Fr Fallon explained how Fr Stenhouse worked valiantly to complete the last edition before entering hospice care, at times laying his head on the desk to rest.
In the homily Fr Jim Littleton said that in the production of Annals and in his ministry to young Asian students Paul encountered many institutional and financial problems yet “he had a trust in God that things would work out and they did”.
“Paul Stenhouse knew much more about Middle Eastern religions and politics than the average journalist, he was a great searcher for the truth and proclaimed it fearlessly,” he said.
Archbishop Fisher said that with the death of Fr Paul Stenhouse “a light has been extinguished in our world, even if for him it has merely been a change of address in our Church”.
“Paul was undoubtedly one of the sharpest intellects among the Australian clergy,” the archbishop said.
“He will remembered in the archdiocese of Sydney…as a man of deep faith, humanity, keen observer of culture and society, a prolific writer and editor, an editor and linguist. And above all a loyal son of the Church and a friend to many.”
President of Campion College Dr Paul Morrisey told The Catholic Weekly that Fr Stenhouse had visited the liberal arts college in October, and despite being frail and ill gave an hour-long lecture on his ancestor and Fr Australian poet and social reformer, John Farrell.
“Paul was a great fan of GK Chesterton – a passion which drew him to Campion, where the annual Chesterton Conference is held,” Dr Morrissey said. “He was a wonderful friend to us and it is with great sadness to hear of his passing. He will remain in our thoughts and prayers, as will his great legacy as a priest, religious education reformer and editor of Annals.”
Annals contributor Wanda Skowronska said he “wore his learning lightly”. “He had vastly superior intelligence but he never wore it like a heavy mantle,” she said.
“I’ve never known such humility blended with such extraordinary intelligence and learning.”
Also at the funeral was Vony Sugiarto who said she and her husband Rudy met Fr Stenhouse when they were university students at UNSW and he later officiated at their wedding and baptised their children. “He was a good friend to us, like family, and he never talked about his work with Annals,” said Mrs Sugiarto.
“He baptised all our children, came to birthday parties, he was always available whenever we needed him or wanted to come by and see him,” she said.”We never knew he had so many other friends he cared for in the same way. He made us feel as though we were the only ones.”