Community leaders have remembered the late Father Leo Donnelly as a great visionary and a giant in our community.
Father Donnelly devoted almost five decades as parish priest at St Agnes’ Parish from his appointment in 1970 until retirement in 2018.
The 91-year-old passed away last Wednesday evening.
Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker said the former parish priest was an amazing man and a great visionary.
Mr Hartsuyker said Father Donnelly had great vision in vocational education, which showed his commitment in giving young people in Port Macquarie and the wider region opportunities that weren’t previously available.
“He was widely regarded and he will be greatly missed,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“Age, while it slowed him down a little, didn’t slow him down much.”
Lyne MP David Gillespie and his wife Charlotte have expressed sadness at the passing of Father Donnelly.
Dr Gillespie paid tribute to the former parish priest, affectionately known as Father D, saying his community leadership will be greatly missed.
“He was a giant in our community,” Dr Gillespie said.
“A gentle man who will be remembered by many locals and past locals as a distinguished community leader with a very long legacy of good.”
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams said it was difficult to put into words the significance of the legacy he had left for the benefit of so many in our community - a legacy that would span generations.
“His lifelong dedication to the church, to the St Agnes’ Parish and the broader community is unsurpassed,” she said.
“His fierce and dogged determination to improve the lives and wellbeing of every child, every family and every person transcended their differences and was complemented by his warmth, care and compassion.
“I always considered it a privilege to be in Father D’s company and on the occasions when I had the opportunity to seek his wise counsel over a cuppa his advice was always genuine, honest and insightful.”
Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peta Pinson said it was with great sadness that she heard of the passing of Father Donnelly and took time to reflect on the enormous legacy he left behind.
“He was a man who had a vision for our region and methodically went about his work to enhance the lives for all over many decades,” she said.
“He leaves behind so many who loved and respected him and the spirit of Father D will be greatly missed by our community. May he rest in eternal peace.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile said Father Donnelly wasn’t just a local leader in terms of provision of services, he was a national leader in terms of education.
His vision was instrumental in establishing the vocational college, which rolled into the first-ever Australian technical college.
The now Newman Senior Technical College is a leader in its field.
Mr Vaile said Father Donnelly was a leadership role model for many in the community.
“He was one of those truly outstanding community leaders that comes along very rarely,” Mr Vaile said.