Tony Murphy
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                                    Father Paddy Landers

By Tony Murphy

Autumn 1955 in the playground of St Luke's school, Revesby,  I'm part of a large group of kids excitedly surrounding our visitor, a quietly jolly, gentle, dark-haired, athletic man wearing glasses and dressed in a black suit.  Word passes quickly and children run from all over the school towards Father Paddy Landers like he was a magnet.  If you could look down on the ground from on-high that day you'd surely see little dots rushing at and rapidly encircling their source of attraction.

That day, Father Landers had been invited over from the adjoining Parish, St Christopher's, Panania, by his All Hallows Dublin seminarian mate, Father Patrick Carr (Parish Priest who was planner, architect, builder and wheeler-dealer of the district and driver of the ever-expanding Catholic school and church building projects in Revesby, Revesby Heights, Milperra and Padstow) who wanted help to prepare us little villains for First Holy Communion.

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  This is my first Confession and these are my sins...."  turns over and over in my nervous mind when the Confessional wooden door opens and a boy walks out with a mimicry sombre look on his face.  Now it's my turn.  The tiny room is chastely dim.  Kneeling.  Alone with myself (gulp).  Mumbling on the other side of the little sliding panel but nothing heard clearly; a good thing because it's a sin to over-hear anyone else's Confession.  And besides, it complicates your own to admit you overheard another's.  Shut it out Shut it out!

Gong to Confession with Father Landers wasn't the stern affair it was with other priests.  Confession hearing was unpretentious and Penance was a few easy Hail Marys.

Treacle compared to lashings of Rosary decades dished out by some other priests with tough confessional reputations we heard about and feared.  Not for him the glib dispensation - 'Done it plenty of times myself.  Be off, you are forgiven'.  Nor the other extreme: insistence on scrupulous conscience examination and delving into the nitty-gritty of every fault, failing and sinful occasion.  (When you wished these Father-Confessors were deaf).  Instead, with Father Landers, there was gentleness, understanding, generosity and forgiveness extended to us all. And like a virtuoso fiddle-player, he somehow plumbed to the depths of our being and beyond, seemingly touching our souls.

Proud Irishman, Father Paddy was a gifted sportsman who played Gaelic football for Annascaul, Kerry.  In Australia, he played weekly tennis well into his seventies.

His twilight years and true to form, Father Landers could be found, in hi tweed  golf cap, walking and waiting in St Christopher's school yard early every morning keeping an eye on strays who arrived before any of the teachers.  He had not lost his genuine love for kids with his humour, gentle encouragement, shared wisdom and, sometimes, a tennis ball from his collection, or a sweet.  Father Lander's humility and gentility broke through barriers most shy and awkward kids

Agnostics Beware
A French savant at Holland House spoke scathingly of the Supreme Being.  After listening for some time in silence, Sydney suddenly addressed him: "Very good soup, this."  The Frenchman agreed: "Qui, monsieur, c'est excellent."  Said Sydney; "Pray, sir, do you believe in a cook?"
- The Smith of Smiths, by Hesketh Pearson 1934.
Sydney is Sydney Smith, one of the founders of The Edinburgh Review and an Anglican Clergyman.

have while his natural sporting prowess matched the smart boys who through they were pretty good with a bat or ball.  "Don't the noisy children at Mass put you off?"  I once heard him asked.  Father Landers' reply: "no - why should they? It's their way of praying."

On March 30, 2000 Father Patrick Landers was carried to his final rest from his beloved St Christopher's church.  Earlier that day, a man in his fifties called at the St Christopher's School office with a large bag of tennis balls.  His way of thanking Father Landers, he said, who gave him a tennis ball or two and some wise words nearly half a century before.  That day, 430 school kids each got a brand-new tennis ball.

For thousands of years before that famous Roman, St Patrick, rocked onto Irish turf in the fifth century, the Celts had a deep spiritual tradition.  Celts found divinity all about them - in the hills, dells, rivers; in the seas, forests; in animals, air and even leaves.  I think Celt Father Patrick Landers found divinity in kids.  He honoured his Celtic roots and more importantly - far, far more importantly - he lived Christ's words:  Suffer the little children to come unto me.

Like leaves drifting down softly to nourish the earth, Father Landers gave us kids tender words and support for our spirits.  I remember.  In the Autumn.
Tony Murphy is a cartoonist, caricaturist and copy writer who is presently putting together a children's animation series to be totally produced in Australia for the world's kids.  He can be reached on