Fr. Renato Paras: Thanks for that homily

BY EVELYN OPILAS – You commit sin two ways, he said—one by commission or what you do but shouldn’t, the other by omission, or what you could have done but didn’t.

Fr. Renato Paras, photo from Catholic Outlook

Those paraphrased words came to mind when I learned about the passing of Fr. Renato Mario Alonso Paras, my former parish priest at St Aidan’s Catholic Church at Rooty Hill, 26 Oct.

Fr. Paras, who instilled those words in me, had a way of jogging people’s complacency in his sermons—straightforward, direct, powerful. He also had a sense of humour and saw the best in people.

My encounters with Fr Paras were few and irregular when compared to other parishioners—at Masses where he was the celebrant, at community gatherings where he would be present, at selected religious festivities.

I remember two occasions of direct involvement—when he blessed our rented place in Campsie many years ago and when I gave him a copy of my first self-published book, ‘Akin views – Filipino proverbs and almost parallel quotes’. Fr. Paras must have been elated with my book since he informed other parishioners about it after Mass that day.

Then, of course, Fr Paras always forgot my name. He knew ‘Opilas’ alright but seemed unable to place ‘Evelyn’. I would either say ‘Evelyn po’ or be content with him calling me ‘Opi’ when I saw him at church and community events. To me his smile of recognition was enough!

It was also good to know that we shared an educational institution—Fr. Paras attended grade school in St Theresa’s College Cebu; I, in STC Quezon City, ran by the same ICM nuns at the time.

Fast forward the years, Fr Paras had retired, Masses he celebrated at St. Aidan’s seemed fewer, he moved to a nursing home nearby. The visit I had planned won’t ever happen as my Google search of ‘Fr Renato Paras’ brought up the Catholic Outlook’s link with the headline ‘Vale Fr Renato Paras’, the photo of him capturing his unforgettable smile.

Sylvia Torres, my former TAFE colleague and a friend of Fr Paras, recalls her fond memories: “The last personal encounter I had with Fr. Paras was last year when I went for my Confession before Easter. I recall the year I went with my husband to pick him up from Croydon home for the aged where he was staying before moving to Rooty Hill Anglicare. Fr. Paras started praying the Rosary with us in the car. This shows how prayers are so powerful for safe travel. As a parishioner of St. Aidan’s Church, I would attend Sunday service where he was officiating. He mixed his homily with humour of parishioners’ everyday lives and vices as well. Fr. Paras was instrumental in putting up the big crucifix at the altar and the building of Mary MacKillop Centre.”

According to the Catholic Outlook online edition 26 Oct 2021:

“Fr Renato Mario Alonso Paras, former Parish Priest of St Aidan’s Parish, Rooty Hill and first chaplain to the Filipino Catholic community in Australia, died today 26 October 2021 at Melva McDonald Lodge, Rooty Hill, aged 84.

“Born in Cebu City in the Philippines on 12 September 1938, Fr Renato was ordained to the priesthood on 3 December 1967. He was incardinated to the Diocese of Parramatta in 1995, having arrived in the Diocese in 1993.

“Prior to that, he had served as the first Filipino Catholic chaplain in Australia for the growing number of Filipino migrants to Australia. Assigned to work in Australia by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Missionaries, he arrived here in November 1980. Soon after arriving, he celebrated the first-ever Filipino Mass held in Australia on 1 January 1981, before being certified by Cardinal James Freeman as Chaplain of the Filipino in NSW in February the same year.

“During this time, he was instrumental in the formation of the Filipino Catholic Organisation of Sydney (FILCOS) designed to promote strong Christian values amongst the Filipino migrant community.

“His first role in the Diocese of Parramatta was as Assistant Priest at Christ the King Parish in North Rocks in 1993. He then served as Parish Priest at St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Springwood from 1996 to 1998. His last appointment in the Diocese was as Parish Priest of St Aidan’s Parish Rooty Hill from 1998 until his retirement in 2011.

“In November 2017, Fr Renato celebrated 50 years since his ordination to the Divine Word Missionaries in the Philippines in 1967.

“In 2019 Fr Renato was interviewed about his life.

“I have fond memories of my time in active priestly ministry,” he explained. “I am thankful to have been of service, to you, the people of God.

“Thank you for welcoming me into your lives and allowing me the privilege of sharing the joyful moments and the difficult times in your lives.”

A Catholic Outlook online story in 2011 by Virginia Knight said:

“Born to Jesus and Leonora Paras, Renato was the eldest of four children. He attended elementary school at St Theresa’s College, Cebu, and completed high school at the University of San Carlos. He majored in Philosophy at Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City graduating in 1959 and earned his BSE Degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1961.

“He entered the Divine Word Major Seminary in Tagaytay to study for the priesthood and was ordained on 3 December 1967. His original choice of career was to follow the family tradition and become a doctor, but inspired by the mission of Fr Bernard Wrocklage SVD, he chose to become a missionary priest, travelling the world and preaching the Lord’s message.”

It would not be a sin of omission not to write this tribute but I would surely regret not writing it. Vale, Fr Renato Paras, and many, many thanks for, oh, so many things, especially that homily. – © 2021 Evelyn A. Opilas

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