Father Ted celebrates 50 years as a priest

MILESTONE: Holy Rosary’s Father Ted Harte will mark 50 years as a priest with celebrations on both Saturday and Sunday. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDHoly Rosary’sFather Ted Harte celebrates 50 years as a priest this weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

Father Harte has been theparish priest ofOur Lady of the Rosary Catholic Parish in White Hills for the past 36 years and to mark the occasion, parishionerDanny Curran has written the following:

Father Harte has a synergy with the number 3, born on 13/3/33 and ordained at the age of 33, at Shepparton. The sixth of eight children to Harold and Elsie Harte, Father Ted was brought up in the Warrnambool district, where he won a scholarship to the local Technical School and as a result was the only one of his siblings not to receive a Catholic Education. It is Ironic that of all the children he was the one drawn to the religious life.

His years at Tech school had one main drawback — he did not learn Latin, which in those days was mandatory if you wanted to enter the Seminary. So after finishing his technical schooling after year 11, Ted undertook a lengthy and somewhat tortuous journey to his calling. He spent a period in Melbourne working for the Department of Aviation, before securing a job at the National Bank where he was posted to Skipton. It was there that the call to the priesthood kept strengthening, but he had no Latin so he requested a transfer to Melbourne and went to night school to try and learn it.

Try as he might, the ancient language would not come to him so he engineered a role as a teacher at Assumption College in Kilmore, where he could enlist the help of Brother Sylvester at 9.30pm most nights. But it was still no good so eventually Brother Sylvester decided the only way to learn the language was to attend Latin classes with the students, and to do that and not be out of place the then 21-year-old would have to don the full school uniform, cap included.

Many, in fact most, would give up at that stage but Ted was so determined he toughed it out, for two full years before he managed to get through by learning parrot fashion. By then 23 and no doubt needing a breather, he spent two years at McCarron Bird Printers, before finally entering the Seminary in 1958, the oldest student in his year and at the ripe old age of 25 regarded as a “late vocation”.

When young Ted Harte entered the Seminary the Catholic Church was steeped in age old rhythms, and just beginning to feel the first buds of the enormous change to come. By the time of his ordination in 1966, the precious Latin he so doggedly worked to learn was being ushered into the background and the fruits of Vatican II were reverberating around the World.

After initially serving as a curate at St Patrick’s Wangaratta and then at St Brendan’s in Shepparton, Father Harte received his first appointment as Parish Priest at Holy Rosary Parish, White Hills. He took up his appointment on Australia Day 1980, and is still there.

When he arrived at Holy Rosary, Father Ted, as many people call him, was driven around the Parish by his predecessor, Father Long, and told the boundaries of the Parish were in need of adjustment and that was to happen shortly. Father Harte is still waiting, but it made no difference. He threw himself into the life of his Parish and quickly gained the love and respect of the locals of all persuasions. He championed the many local groups such as the Legion of Mary, oversaw the development of the local school as it expanded at pace to keep up with the demand of a growing population, became chaplain of the Bendigo Jockey Club and a driving force behind the Marong race club, which holds a spectacularly successful meeting to raise money for the local Catholic schools each February.

When the Diocese decided to close down three churches as not needed, Father Ted stood up and vigorously supported the retention of St Francis Xavier in East Bendigo, much to the relief of the locals.

Throughout a busy vocation with all its need to support people as they travel the emotional rollercoasters of life, Father Harte has remained calm, friendly, caring and considerate. His only real stress came when he had to move from the old, comfortable and familiar presbytery he had called home for 28 years into a new, but not so practical place nearer the church.

In 1999 and again two years later Father Harte took the opportunity to travel to the United States, where he served for several months as an assistant priest at St John The Evangelist Parish in downtown New York. He says he was amazed to find that saying Mass in the basement of a nineteen floor skyscraper in New York was just the same as saying Mass in White Hills!

Father Harte’s life work is also his hobby; he didn’t regard himself as any sort of sportsman although he does remember one day after he kicked a rare goal in a school football match he overheard someone calling him “Goalsneak Harte”. He has always had a devotion to the Saints…perhaps it is no coincidence that his ordination on July 23, 1966, was followed by Saint Kilda winning their only premiership two months later. Father Ted has an occasional dabble and loves to follow the fortunes of local horses and especially his former school students, the famous jockeys Nash and Brad Rawiller.

Father Ted Harte is a rare and much loved priest and confidante, and all who know him salute his kindness, care and vision, and congratulate him on 50 years of selfless devotion to the church and his vocation.

Holy Rosary Parish will be holding celebrations forFatherHarte’s milestonethisweekend,July 23-24, with Mass concelebrated with Bishop Les Tomlinson on Saturday at 6pm and a People’s Mass at11am on Sunday, followed by lunch and festivities.

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