Priests are often remembered by members of the parishes in which they ministered. Not many spread their ministry across the country. Fr Peter Quilty did that through his long association with the Military (Army) Chaplaincy.
Fr Peter Quilty (Aged 78) died in Townsville on the 18th of May after a long battle with acute myeloid Leukaemia which was diagnosed in 2013.
Father Peter came to Townsville on Loan from the Sydney Archdiocese in October 1998 after being Army Chaplain since 1967. He first volunteered for Military Chaplaincy in 1965 and was commissioned as an Army Chaplain in 1967. During this time he served throughout Australia. In February 1985 he was posted to Townsville as the RC Chaplain North Queensland, based at Lavarack Barracks. He was posted away from Townsville until he returned in 1996 until 1998. During this time he was also Chaplain to 5th Aviation Regiment and was with them through the trauma of the Blackhawk accident.
During the Vigil and sharing of memories which was held in his parish of St Mary MacKillop in Townsville, Commander 3rd Brigade, Brigadier Roger Noble shared that he heard about the death of Fr Peter during a meeting with the newly appointed Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
“What do you think the first word was? He said Father Peter Quilty died. Because every officer in that room knew him, every one of us. He knew everybody in that room and that is what I mean by generations that have marched through the Army and he’s marched with them. He was a trusted man for us, for generations of officers and soldiers.” Brig. Noble said.
Diocesan Administrator Fr Mick Lowcock said “It’s because of the honour in which he has been held by people, because of his presence among us that’s touched generations of people here even in this parish that we’ve seen something of the glory of God in Peter's life. We might well be saying how great Peter is, but at the same time we’re saying how great is God.”
His brothers John and Michael spoke lovingly of their brother saying that his years in Townsville were probably the happiest in his priestly life. John also spoke of the annual camping trips in Western Australia. “I’ve attended mass in some magnificent churches and cathedrals over the years, but the ones I really remember are those celebrated by Peter with his characteristic informalities each evening of those outback camps. I think there would be many here from the Army that could relate to those masses” he said.
One of the final words of tribute were left to Pastoral Leader Mrs Lyn Horner where she described Fr Peter as a living treasure. “I often think Peter’s greatest gift was his ability to connect with people” Lyn said.