A man of the people, a ‘gentle-man’ and a saintly man were just some of the many words of affection posted on social media about the former Archbishop of Adelaide and Bishop of Townsville.
The eldest of 10 children, Leonard Anthony Faulkner was born in Booleroo Centre in the southern Flinders Ranges on December 5 1926 and educated by the Sisters of St Joseph at Gladstone. After being awarded a scholarship to attend boarding school at Sacred Heart College he entered the seminary at Rostrevor and was ordained a priest on January 1 1950 in Rome.
He was appointed Bishop of Townsville on November 28 1967 and won the hearts of the people with his kindness, sense of humour and approachable manner.
On June 19 1985 he was installed as Archbishop of Adelaide where he continued his commitment to, and support of, the lay people as a critical part of the life of the Church.
He established the Diocesan Pastoral Team which gave lay women a role in governance, and pioneered a unique model of neighbourhood communities based on the Second Vatican Council’s challenge that the Church be one that looks outward to the community.
He was passionately involved in ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, support for migrants and refugees, Aboriginal communities and the Young Christian Workers movement.
During the AIDS epidemic he demonstrated his bold and compassionate leadership by establishing the Diocesan AIDS Council and an extensive volunteer program to support those affected.
A highlight of his time as Archbishop was a trip to South Africa in 1990 when he visited black townships, prisons, unions and the African National Congress, resulting in his returning in 1994 to celebrate the first election.
After Archbishop Faulkner’s retirement in 2001 he continued to serve the people – sitting on various committees, saying Mass regularly and visiting the sick. He also used his retirement to catch up with his large family which includes more than 60 first cousins.
Last November he became only the third bishop in the history of the Australian Catholic Church to reach his 50-year milestone and celebrated Mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral with family, friends and fellow priests and bishops.
Delivering the homily at his anniversary Mass, his friend and fellow South Australian Bishop Eugene Hurley described Archbishop Faulkner as “a priest for people”.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson extended his deepest sympathy to Archbishop Faulkner’s family and friends, and asked the clergy, religious and people of the Archdiocese to pray for the repose of his soul.
“He was a beloved priest and a dedicated, loving pastor,” he said.
“We grieve his death deeply, but we also give thanks for his life and his outstanding service to the gospel and to all whom he led.”
His funeral Mass will be held on Monday at 11am in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, following the Vigil liturgy led by Bishop Timothy Harris, of Townsville, with Archbishop Philip Wilson presiding.