Commodore David Patrick York (retired), a convert who was the only sibling in his family to become a Catholic, passed away on 3 March, aged 79.
He has been remembered for a lifetime of service to his family, his country, the community and God.
The retired Naval officer leaves behind an remarkable legacy. He and wife Peta have 12 children and an impressive 37 grandchildren to their credit.
His daughter Sophie York, who is running as a Senate candidate for the Australian Conservatives Party in the upcoming 2019 Federal election, described her late father as “always dedicated to others” and “an incredible inspiration”.
Ms York said his many descendants, relatives, colleagues and friends would always remember his “gentle interest in others, sunny smile, quiet faith, discreet loyalty, calm wit, and authentic, gentlemanly charm”.
“His strong adherence to moral guiding principles for life founded an abiding and impressive integrity of character,” she said.
Commodore York served in the Royal Australian Navy for 42 years initially joining at age 13. At the time he had no religious faith. It was the Navy’s protocol at the time – during the sectarianism of the 1950’s – to dismiss Catholics from the parade ground during prayer time. This aroused Commodore York’s interest in Catholicism and he began to explore the faith.
After attending Mass on several occasions with Catholic colleagues, at Our Lady Star of the Sea Chapel at HMAS Cerberus, he wrote, “Their spiritual example, the beautiful chapel, and the Latinate Mass liturgy made quite an impression”.
He was received into the Catholic Church in 1963.
According to one of the key Navy Chaplains at the time, Commodore York bore strong and open witness to the Catholic faith.
The official newspaper of the Navy, Navy News, recorded that he was regarded as a representative of the Catholic Church in the Navy.
He was awarded several medals for his Naval service and was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “exceptional service and devotion to duty”.
In 1994 he was awarded a Papal Knighthood in the Order of St Gregory the Great. He was the first to receive such a knighthood in the Military Ordinariate.
He served as President of the NSW Parents Council from 1998 to 2003 and was President of the Castle Hill branch of the Liberal Party from 2006 to 2011.
Ms York said her father had lived a “truly rich and selfless life” and that “his enduring interest in others and their well-being stood him in great stead”.
“He made friends readily and kept them for life,” she said.
Commodore York will be farewelled with a Requiem Mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Monday 11 March at 10.30am.