The good people at Surry Hills parish have farewelled their pastor, Father Bill Milsted, after 20 years of faithful service.
“It was very moving, definitely a night of mixed emotions,” said Father Bill.
“I have seen many good marriages made here, vocations to the priesthood and the married life over that time which has been very heart-warming for me,” he said.
Another highlight over those years was seeing the successful implementation of a pastoral plan which involved building a young adults network, he said.
“The activity of the young people in the parish is quite unprecedented.
“It began with the Open to the Doors to Christ parish mission in 2005, and we built on that with the World Youth Day in 2008.”
Fr Bill arrived at St Peter’s in Devonshire Street shortly before Sydney’s 1999 hailstorms wrought destruction across the city, ripping off the church’s roof and damaging the parish hall, known as the 1880 Hall, and other buildings in the parish precinct.
After a difficult task of rebuilding from the “roof down”, the heritage church is now a sought-after venue for weddings, while the hall has been alive with events including concerts and other performances plus an annual ball.
Fr Bill created an environment where commitment to music and the arts could flourish said long time supporter of the parish and national director of Artes Christi Anthony McCarthy.
More than 100 people gathered for the official farewell in a night of reminiscing, prayer, performances of classical and contemporary music and even a skit depicting Fr Bill’s time in the parish to coincide with the annual dinner for its patronal feast of Sts Peter and Paul.
St Peter’s administrator Father John Macdonald said the evening in the parish hall was an “outstanding parish event”.
“The very clear legacy from Father Bill’s time here is the establishment and promotion of a flourishing young adults’ community,” he said.
“It’s most unusual to have in one place a lot of 20, 30 or 40-year-olds who seriously practise their faith, but aren’t too serious, they bring a buoyancy. That’s the outstanding feature of this parish and one that I would like to build upon.”
Currently on long service leave, Father Bill said he is enjoying ministering as a supply priest in NSW country districts around Goulburn, and may continue in that vein.
He is also thinking of writing about the unique vocation of a secular diocesan priest in the light of his own experiences.