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Franciscan friar was a true parish man


Father Allan Hartcher - Born: February 6 1933 | Died: July 4 2023

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Growing up in country New South Wales, Allan knew from the age of 14 that he wanted to be a priest.

When he was in his third year of secondary school at Marist Brothers Forbes, Fr Joseph Gleeson OFM gave a school retreat. He encouraged Allan to be a friar, as did his sister, who was a Sister of Mercy in Forbes Convent.

The parish priest of Forbes told Allan to write to the friars in Waverley and Fr Kieran O’Connell OFM came to visit him and his parents. The following year when he was 17 Allan went to Robertson Seraphic College to do his matriculation and he became inspired by the ideals of St Francis.

In 1952 he entered the novitiate. Recommending Allan to the order, Fr Bernadine Bradbury acknowledged his ‘courage and determination’ in a crisis.

‘He finds it difficult to indulge in any type of sport. He is most conscientious and sincere in all he does,’ wrote Fr Bradbury in his recommendation.

Those attributes stayed with Allan throughout his Franciscan life.

Later in his formation years tragedy struck his parents. They were caught up in the ‘Black Monday’ bushfires that wiped out Leura on December 2 1957.

Allan’s father Jack was the headmaster of the public school and he and his wife Mary tried desperately to save the building, only escaping minutes before the building was destroyed.

Another 200 houses, 40 businesses, churches and other buildings were also destroyed, including the Hartcher family home. They lost everything.

The impact of this must have influenced Allan but he showed courage and determination, continuing with his Franciscan vocation.

Years later, Allan was caught up in his own tragic accident when he was a passenger on the ill-fated Southern Aurora Express when it crashed into a goods train near Violet Town, Victoria, on January 7 1969. Allan was trapped in the wreckage for several hours before he was rescued and taken to hospital. For the remainder of his life, he suffered from the injury he received to his back.

Such experiences can have an adverse effect on those involved. But Allan seemed to soldier on, being conscientious and sincere, wanting to put his ministry first which was to serve in the parishes of Holy Spirit Province.

Allan was a true ‘parish man’, a term used for those of the friars who committed themselves to pastoral ministry.

He served in many of the Franciscan parishes throughout Australia including Taperoo in South Australia from 1976 to 1981.  His other appointments took him to Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania as well as numerous regions in his home state of NSW.

While he served with enthusiasm and a genuine care for his parishioners, Allan also saw the reduction in the Franciscans’ participation in this ministry. There was a great sense of loss and sadness as many of the parishes where he had served were returned to the dioceses.

It was no secret that Allan had great love and admiration for his hero, St John Henry Newman.

Sorting through his library there were numerous tomes of Newman’s writings.

Each time Allan visited England, a trip to places associated with Newman – Oxford or to Birmingham to visit the Oratory – was always on his itinerary.

Allan was a gentleman in the truest meaning of the word. Gentle in spirit with the manners and sophistication of a refined gentleman.

Many friends and family received a card from Allan, always handwritten in that distinctive cursive script expressing a thank you, or congratulations on an achievement or greetings for a special occasion.

When Allan needed extra care, his move to Our Lady of Consolation at Rooty Hill was a challenge. Losing his independence was difficult but he made the most of it and was supported by many friends on that journey.

He adapted and continued to minister to the other residents as best he could.

When Allan was admitted to Bankstown Hospital on June 9, there was every hope that surgery would correct the extremely painful condition he was suffering.

Following two operations the prognosis was not good.

Through all this Allan stayed stoic and serene and as the days passed and hope faded that he would recover, he never gave a hint of anxiety or fear.

He was very clear with his instructions to the medical team, and they were very supportive of his decisions.

As his health deteriorated and he was moved to palliative care his faith never failed him.

God rewards all good and faithful servants. May Allan be welcomed into the kingdom of God by all those who have gone before him, especially his father and mother whom he dearly loved.

Taken from the homily by Fr Phillip Miscamble OFM, Provincial Minister, Province of the Holy Spirit.

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