Mersey-Leven welcomes Fr Paschal Okpon as Fr Phil McCormack retires

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Home > Media > News > Mersey-Leven welcomes Fr Paschal Okpon as Fr Phil McCormack retires
Mersey-Leven welcomes Fr Paschal Okpon as Fr Phil McCormack retires

Newly appointed Mersey-Leven assistant priest Fr Paschal Okpon has been working hard to set up a new youth group in the parish.

Fr Paschal, 33, began his appointment in the North West Coast parish in February alongside parish priest Fr Mike Delaney, and Fr Phil McCormack, who has been priest in residence since January 2017.

He says there is interest from a number of young people in the parish.

“I hope that as the young people develop their faith, this will help them also to develop a personal and lasting relationship with God.”

Ordained to the priesthood in September 2017, Fr Paschal said he was getting used to the new lifestyle as a priest, visiting schools, celebrating Masses and helping out at the Devonport soccer club as assistant coach for an under 16’s side.

Following his ordination last year, Fr Paschal went back to Corpus Christi College in Victoria to complete his seminary studies and then returned home to Nigeria.

As well as catching up with family and friends, he was also invited to celebrate Mass in his home town of Mbiokporo, about 12 hours driving time from the capital, Abuja.

“More than 3,000 people attended. It was really beautiful to be there with them.”

He returned to Australia and started his appointment at Mersey-Leven Parish on February 1.

Fr Paschal said he felt great joy in being a priest.

“I love doing it,” he said.

“I just feel that sense of fulfilment. I have satisfied the yearning. And celebrating Mass as well, when I was newly ordained, for the first month or so, each time I celebrated Mass I couldn’t control tears. And that joy is still there today when celebrating Mass.”

As Fr Paschal settles into his new role, Mersey-Leven’s priest-in-residence Fr Phil McCormack is preparing for retirement.

Fr Phil, 75, was born in Kimberly in the North West of Tasmania, and lived in Railton until he moved to St Virgil’s College, Hobart, as a boarder. It was there that he acquired the nickname of ‘Smiley’, which endures to this day.

He was ordained at what was then St Brendan’s College, Devonport, on July 30, 1971, by Archbishop Sir Guilford Young.

Fr Phil has served at Cygnet, Invermay, Devonport, Roseberry, Launceston, Sandy Bay/Taroona, Scottsdale, Queenstown, back to Launceston, Wynyard, Latrobe, Mersey-Leven and Circular Head. He returned to Mersey-Leven, as priest in residence, in early 2017.

“I have liked all my parishes,” he said.

“Now I am retired, but I will help out when [Fr] Mike [Delaney] is away. And I regularly visit the nursing homes and the sick people.”

A keen Sydney Swans supporter, his office at the Devonport presbytery is adorned with AFL memorabilia including a signed and framed Tony Lockett guernsey and a pen that replays part of the commentary of the Swans’ 2005 grand final victory.

He has been a much-loved priest in the many parishes in which he has served, with his easy manner, sense of humour, and warm personal pastoral care.

Young people interested in finding out more about the new youth group at Mersey-Leven Parish can call the parish office on 6424 2783 or email merseyleven@aohtas.org.au