Fr Laurence Joseph Quinn was a man whose priesthood was central to his life. But his priesthood was not something that came to him easily. The son of Tom and Harriett Quinn and one of four children, he left school without any secondary education, worked hard on the farm but gradually became convinced of a call to priesthood.
It meant that he had to avail himself of the good offer of the parish priest, Fr Hughes, to tutor him in Latin, and Fr Laurie would recount with a little pride his final high grades in that subject at the public examination.
He was an adult by then, but it was his dogged character that saw him through it. It would not have been easy when he arrived at the seminary at the age of 26. He was what was called a ‘late vocation’, as most of the other seminarians had entered straight from school, and some had even undertaken their secondary schooling at the seminary. It must have seemed to him at times that he was a man among boys, and being forced to follow the same restrictive routine as students much younger than him would have again required that doggedness and determination of spirit that was one of his strengths.
After his ordination at Burra on June 29 1963, Fr Laurie was assistant parish priest at Whyalla until 1972 then parish priest of Loxton until 1981. The next nine years were as parish priest at Port Lincoln and then 14 years at Burra before retiring in 2014 and moving into St Joseph’s House in Port Pirie.
Pride in his family background, devotion to prayer, devotion to Mary, a pride in some of his accomplishments, a fondness for motor cars and a love of his priesthood are key themes of Fr Laurie.
Pope John Paul II said that the priest is one who prolongs the presence of Christ among the people. We pray that this was the grace that Fr Laurie brought to the people of God. His life of prayer was obvious. People in Burra recall him seated in the church for some time before Mass on a daily basis, and his devotion to the breviary and to the Rosary were obvious.
Pope Francis said that for anyone who proclaims the Word of God, unless there is prayer it will not be God’s Word. The lengthy time Fr Laurie gave to prayer must have fed his preaching of the Word.
The spiritual writer Stephen Rossetti wrote: ‘The life of a diocesan priest among his people is an integral part of his spirituality and the way in which God is revealed to him…The Diocesan priest is someone who lives with the people, and each becomes a part of the other’s life…the diocesan priest does not have a calling apart from the people of God whom he serves.’ Fr Laurie lived this life from the day he entered at the age of 26 until he passed back to the Lord at the age of 87.
Fr Laurie was no plaster saint, but he had a sense of grace and a sense of the providence of God that could inspire all of us.
His well-known utterance, time and again, when presented with an alternative view was to say ‘whatever’.
A part of Fr Laurie’s tenderness was the way he cared for abandoned graves, and the care he took to maintain graves of priests, scattered around the little towns and cemeteries of the diocese, a devotion he shared with Mgr Frank Cresp. A great hero for Fr Laurie was pioneer priest Fr Peder Jorgensen, first priest on the West Coast, and Fr Jorgensen’s ability to go out and love the bush, and move easily through it, and to be faithful to his commitments was something that inspired Laurie.
The diocese has lost one of its very colourful identities, a priest of enormous service and dedication, a prayerful man.
– Taken from the homily delivered by Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ at Fr Laurie’s funeral Mass in St Joseph’s Church, Burra on February 8.Jump to next article