The late Bishop John Satterthwaite. Many Clarence residents would remember the Bishop through his work with the church and St Joseph's Children's Homes.
The late Bishop John Satterthwaite. Many Clarence residents would remember the Bishop through his work with the church and St Joseph's Children's Homes. J. Bortolin

Remembering a special man

DAVID Abrahams said he first met John Satterthwaite in 1971 when fellow Grafton businessman Bill Dougherty accompanied the Bishop to his office at Gerards, inviting him to a public meeting being held to form a committee to raise money for the construction of the St Joseph's Cowper Children's Homes.

"Before I realised, I was Chairman of the Appeal Committee," Mr Abrahams said.

That "fantastic" group set about the task of raising $25,000 "with great skill and passion" from the public which, combined with a similar amount raised from within the Catholic Diocese, added to the already accumulated funds, which enabled the buildings to be erected, furnished and opened with very little debt.

Mr Abrahams said as Coadjutor Bishop of Lismore, John Satterthwaite then established a management structure with Father Frank Mulcahy as chair, and Bill Dougherty, Darcy Everingham, John Nilon, Sister Patricia Smith, NSW Railways Regional Manager Bob Liddiard (a Mason), Dr Derek Palmer (a Northern Ireland Protestant) and himself (a Jewish shopkeeper) completing the team, "an ecumenical a bunch as one could get".

"With that management team I found myself in memorable company with exceptional people dedicated to helping others, including the many rather special Sisters of Mercy caring brilliantly for the children."

Mr Abrahams said over the years he recalled Bishop Satterthwaite attending all the special Christmas parties at the St Joseph's Homes, joining in the festivities with the children in their care.

"That ecumenical spirit of the Bishop's was also epitomised by his attendance at the Anglican Cathedral, the first Catholic Bishop to preach there."

Mr Abrahams said that attitude was a far cry from his experience with the church in 1955 after asking a good Catholic friend to be groomsman at his wedding at St. Andrew's Church only to have his request refused by the Catholic Church.

"I'm sure there are a great many stories out there that capture the great character of this very special man."

Mr Abrahams said one of his most memorable personal experiences with the Bishop was at the funeral of his wife Wendy.

"As I sat with my family at the Anglican Cathedral here in Grafton, I looked beyond the pulpit and sitting in the choir was John Satterthwaite, who had come over from Lismore.

"After the service, I chased him out to thank him for coming over and he explained that our great friend Frank Mulcahy was unable to make it from Alstonville and that "somebody had to come".

"He was a truly wonderful man whose understanding and compassion will live long in my memory and in many other's from the Clarence."

Bishop John Satterthwaite died in his sleep at Port Macquarie on April 23.

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