Solemn silence fell over Port Macquarie as the town's beloved Reverend Father Leo Donnelly was farewelled by hundreds of parishioners on Friday, February 1.
Family, friends and community members from all walks of life came to pay their respects at his Requiem Mass in the St Agnes' Parish Church. Following the service, crowds formed an honour guard along the Hay, William and Horton streets.
Father Donnelly passed away on Wednesday January 23 in Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was aged 91 years.
Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lismore, Greg Homeming, said Father Donnelly was a driving forced behind improvements to education, training, aged care, welfare and sport in the community.
“That can be clearly seen in the diversity of the crowd,” the Bishop said.
"I think part of Port Macquarie is his legacy because so much of the charitable works, the works of care and love are here because of him.
I think part of Port Macquarie is his legacy because so much of the charitable works, the works of care and love are here because of him.Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lismore, Greg Homeming
"Where he could find a need, he would do something and, correctly, it wasn't simply for Catholics, it was for everybody.
"I think when you see today so many people at the funeral, that attests to so many people who recognise the care and love of this man."
Dozens of school students attended the live broadcast of the mass which featured hymns, speeches from the Donnelly family and blessings.
Attendees shared memories of Father Donnelly at the Hay Street church grounds afterwards, while a private burial was held.
"I must say I was impressed by the humility of the man. There was no sense in him that anything he did was about himself," said Bishop Homeming.
"And I don't think he thought he did anything in particular, he was just helping people who needed to be helped, and did what he could."
Father D's legacy was honoured by speeches and hymns from significant members of St Agnes’ Parish, where he was a parish priest from 1970 until his retirement in 2018.
St Agnes Parish Port Macquarie chief executive Adam Spencer said he would be a great loss to the community.
"If you think about what he's achieved in the areas of aged care, early education, vocational education and training, community services, a whole range of things... I think he's without peer in all of Australia to have achieved what hes achieved in all of those domains."
"An outstanding leader, an outstanding leader of the church community but more broadly a leader in the community as a whole.
"A great man, an exemplary leader, an exemplary pastor and is going to be really dearly missed by the community."