AGED CARE, EDUCATION
Brian Tierney has described Father Leo Donnelly as a man of a lifetime.
"He was just so special," Mr Tierney said of the parish priest who passed away on Wednesday evening in Sydney.
Mr Tierney said Father D's legacy carried across any number of areas and it was difficult to fully comprehend his level of involvement.
"Under his guidance the Catholic education system flourished and that includes the marvellous vocational college (Newman Senior Technical College) that started out in a couple of industrial bays.
"The whole aged care services industry grew because of his drive. Alongside that were a number of community care services he was instrumental in starting.
"Of course there was also his work in creating the pre-school education system.
"It was just so fortunate that when he turned up here in 1970 it was at a time when this town was about to go through extraordinary growth.
"He saw there was a great need for services to keep up with that growth."
Mr Tierney said he was closely associated with Father Donnelly for a long period of time.
"He was just a wonderful man and such a beautiful man to work with," he added.
The former director of Catholic Care of the Aged Sue McCann described Father Donnelly as an incredible human being.
"He was just so humble, quick witted and had a great sense of humour," she said.
"I would have worked with him for 19 years but I knew him for longer than that.
That was the outcome that he wanted. I think his reputation speaks for itself.Sue McCann
"During my time at CCA we did a lot of updating of buildings; moving things around to suit the growth.
"Father D was instrumental, the initiator, of many things within the aged care area.
"He always worked in his own inimitable style.”
Ms McCann described him as a champion of aged care.
He took aged care from the 19th century into the 21st century, she said.
Importantly, Father D wanted to ensure we were providing the best possible evidence-based care, Ms McCann said.
"That was the outcome that he wanted. I think his reputation speaks for itself."
The first director of St Joseph's Family Services (pre-schools) Kay Wood worked with Father Donnelly for 30 years.
She says one of his most outstanding features was his inclusiveness.
"We started from one little classroom to a huge organisation," she said.
"Back then, our primary school was operating from over near the church. We would have parents asking Father D to accommodate their pre-school children.
"They were asking for a preparatory grade school. So he started that in the church hall.
"About that time I stepped in as a qualified early childhood educator and by the end of the year we had a waiting list with parents wanting to come to our centre.
"We more than doubled the following year," she said.
At Father Donnelly's insistence the service was opened up to everyone in Port Macquarie.
There was never any mention of it being just for those of the Catholic faith, Ms Wood said.
He was such a wonderful man that he just thought about the whole town and area.Kay Wood
"He was such a wonderful man that he just thought about the whole town and area.
"Many of the services we created were a first for this community.
"We were the first centre to receive funding for a purpose built pre-school.
"And then we grew to three times our size. That eventually led to the creation of Family Day Care which was a new service being proposed by the federal government of the time.
"We realised there was a need for better before and and after hours support. Our family day care was quite unique.
"It was for everyone and that carried through with all the services he organised.
"He was just an amazing man. A stand-out," she said.
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