18 March 2024

Archbishop Carroll farewelled as a gentle, genuine leader who was always a Ganmain boy

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Archbishop Francis Carroll has died at 93. Photo: Canberra Goulburn Catholic archdiocese

Former Canberra Goulburn Catholic Archbishop Frank Carroll, who has died at the age of 93, is being recalled as a gentle and generous leader of his faith.

He had served the church across southern NSW and the ACT for almost 70 years.

Known to many across the Riverina and Canberra Goulburn archdioceses simply as Father Frank, he was welcome and at ease in tiny country churches and local parishes everywhere and never lost touch with his rural roots.

Born in 1930 in Ganmain, he was the second of seven children of Patrick and Rose Carroll. He attended the local Ganmain School before completing his secondary education with the De La Salle Brothers in Marrickville.

He studied for the priesthood at St Columba’s Seminary, Springwood, and St Patrick’s Seminary, Manly. He was ordained a priest at Ganmain by Bishop Francis Augustine Henschke, Bishop of Wagga Wagga, in 1954.

His rise through the ranks was swift. He became the first Director of Catholic Education in the Wagga Wagga Diocese. At 37, he was ordained as coadjutor bishop for Bishop Henschke, later assuming the role of Bishop of Wagga Wagga.

In 1983, he was appointed Archbishop of the Canberra and Goulburn Diocese, a vast area stretching from Lake Cargelligo in the west to the far south coast.

He was the first Australian bishop to call a diocesan synod following the Second Vatican Council and called another in 2000. He was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001, an honour introduced during the Centenary of Federation year.

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Father Frank loved ordinary parish and family life, conversation, and connection. He nurtured a lifelong passion for sport, particularly AFL, and had the gift of making anyone feel comfortable in his presence.

As a faith leader, he was an innovator in pastoral care and alive to the challenges of ensuring that the church engaged with social change without compromising its values and heritage.

A series of pastoral letters written during Archbishop Carroll’s time in Wagga and Canberra continue to be treasured today for their enduring influence, wisdom and insight.

The Canberra Goulburn archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Voice, has received many tributes to Father Frank and his personal qualities of compassion and humility.

“The warmth of his smile, the kindness in his eyes, the compassion he showed to others and their needs, and the strength of the deep love of Jesus he humbly demonstrated throughout his life testify now to the most saintly entry of Father Francis into Heaven with Almighty God. Praise you and thank you, God, for his life,” wrote Carolyn Prichard.

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Gordet Mann wrote in tribute: “Archbishop Francis Carroll was a VERY humble person – one of the nicest clergy to work with. I still remember him saying, ‘Don’t call me Archbishop, call me Father’. RIP Fr Francis.”

Rod Baz wrote, ” I can only try to imagine the rejoicing in Heaven on Fr Francis’ arrival.”

Archbishop Carroll’s final years were spent at the Loreto Home of Compassion in Wagga.

Liturgies in his memory will be conducted at:

  • St Brendan’s Church, Ganmain – Tuesday, 19 March, at 5:30 pm
  • St Michael’s Cathedral, Wagga Wagga – Mass, Wednesday, 20 March, at 11 am
  • St Christopher’s Cathedral, Canberra – Vigil, Wednesday, 20 March, at 7:30 pm.

A Pontifical Requiem Mass for Archbishop Carroll will be celebrated at St Christopher’s Cathedral, Manuka, at 11 am on Thursday, 21 March, with interment following in the crypt of St Christopher’s Cathedral. There is also a live stream link for the service.

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