Homily: Vale - Fr Leo Lane

Father Patrick Leo Lane
3.10.1922 - 27.01.2016

Viewed from the prospective of a long life like Father Lane's, we can appreciate the message of our First Reading from Ecclesiastes, that there have been appropriate times for a variety of contrasting events and now, we accept his death as appropriate, but only for the most positive of reasons.  This reason is given to us in the Second Reading taken from St Paul's letter to the Philippians: For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigured these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body...  This is our vision of faith which sustains us through the joys and challenges of our earthly pilgrimage and this also is the conviction that guides us in our relations with our fellow pilgrims through this life journey.  It is on this foundation that we recognise the dignity of each person and make them the focus of our love in Christ.

This conviction of the Christian life was central to the family of Patrick and Ellen Lane and their sons Leo, Francis, Vincent and Fabian in their life on the farm at Southern Cross.  Leo's schooling at St Columba's Catholic Primary School and Christian Brothers' College, Warrnambool would have further consolidated this vision together with the nurturing of faith through the development of his prayer life.  The maturing of this conviction bore fruit in his decision at age eighteen, at the conclusion of his secondary schooling, to pursue a vocation to the Priesthood. In 1941 the Diocese of Ballarat had sufficient vocations to meet the anticipated needs of the Diocese and so, Leo was encouraged to apply to Bishop John McCarthy for acceptance as a student for the Diocese of Sandhurst.  Having been accepted by Bishop McCarthy, Leo began his preparation initially at St Columba's College, Springwood, NSW and then after two years progressed to St Patrick's College, Manly in Sydney.

On the 27th July, 1948 Leo Lane was ordained to the Priesthood in his home diocese at St Patrick's Cathedral, Ballarat by then Co-adjutor Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop Justin Simonds.  Father Lane's introduction to priestly ministry was at St Kilian's Parish, Bendigo.  In 1948 the parish took in almost all of Bendigo and the Administrator was Monsignor Francis X Thomas, renowned for his pastoral goodness, wisdom and kindness.  The experience as Assistant Priest at St Kilian's was followed by appointments to Shepparton, Wangaratta, Numurkah, Cohuna where is cared for the Parish between Parish Priests, Elmore, Euroa, Yarrawonga and Beechworth, to which he later returned as Parish Priest.  In February, 1966 he was appointed Parish Priest of Corryong until his appointment back to Beechworth in February, 1972, then Rushworth in June, 1979, followed by Chiltern 1982 and then his last parochial appointment was to Pyramid Hill in January, 1986.  One of his parishioners from his Pyramid Hill days recalls his dedication to his pastoral duties as Parish Priest, expressed in his systematical visitation of every home in the Parish, irrespective of whether the family was Catholic or not.  His concern was for everyone who lived there.

Of his long life, Father Lane spent sixty-five and a half years as a priest.  Bearing this fact in mind in the context of the Gospel passage chosen from the Priestly Prayer of Jesus, for this Funeral Mass, we take great comfort from Jesus’ prayer to the Father: Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see the glory you have given me because you love me … and … I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that the love with which you loved me may be in them and so that I may be in them.  The love of the Priesthood and his commitment to it was fundamental and central to the life of Father Lane.

Throughout his life Father Lane showed a keen interest in history and dedicated himself to researching the history of each parish in which he served.  This pursuit took him far and wide as he investigated the provenance of parish properties and assets.  This passion for research prompted his history of the Parish of Beechworth which is a sizeable volume containing much detail not found elsewhere.  His legacy to the Diocese of Sandhurst is the fruit of this and similar research right across the diocese and similarly contains details not recorded elsewhere.  When in 1989 Bishop Noel Daly, with the benefit of advice from his College of Consultors, reached the decision that he was no longer able to offer Father Lane a parochial appointment, he appointed Father Lane to see to the recording of the history of the Diocese.  Initially Father Lane lived at St Catherine's Home in Wangaratta and then privately in Wangaratta.  In 2006 Father Lane returned to his home territory of Warrnambool to be amongst his family and friends.  

Bishop Brian Finnigan, is a native of this area and through family connections knew Father Lane well. Bishop Finnigan regrets that he cannot be with us today for this celebration, but is with us in spirit and prayer. In sending me condolence on Father Lane’s death, he observed to me that Father Lane loved his places of origin.

The support of his family, particularly his sister-in-law, Mrs Carmel Lane and her family, his cousin, Mrs Dorothy Earl, her husband, Ron and family and the priests of Warrnambool area, especially Father Lawrence O'Toole, Father John Fitzgerald and Father Bill Van der Camp has been of deep comfort to Father Lane as he prepared himself for that joyous encounter foreshadowed in our second reading of today's Funeral Mass.  After becoming Bishop of Sandhurst, I came with Monsignor Frank Marriott to visit Father Lane and witnessed first-hand the care he was receiving in his residence and from his family.  The kindness and hospitality that the clergy and family extend to us was deeply appreciated and typical of the support they were giving to Father Lane.  I express my deep gratitude to all of you for the care and love you showed Father Lane through his life, but especially in his time back here amongst you at the end of his life.  As his bishop, I took great comfort from knowing of the care you gave him and appreciated the comprehensive updates on Father Lane, that I received from Dorothy, who was in such constant and close contact with Father Lane right to his death.

May Father Lane's soul and the soul of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.