THE death of Father Tom Shanahan OAM in Tamworth on December 22, 2018 has saddened a wide cross-section of the communities he served during his 62 years as a Catholic priest.
Fr Tom, as he is affectionately known, came to St Joseph’s Parish, Gunnedah, soon after his ordination in 1956. He made many lifelong friends and returned in 2016 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of his ordination.
The popular priest also served in Narrabri, Armidale and Inverell and four years as a chaplain in the AIF, including 391 days service as a padre to the troops in the Vietnam war.
After returning to civilian life in 1970, Fr Tom was posted to Narrabri and then Warialda as parish priest. In 1982, his priestly journey took him to the Barraba-Bingara parish until 1998 when he retired to Tamworth, where he was born in 1932 to Vincent and Barbara Shanahan. His siblings Mary and Joe predeceased him.
Forty years after his war service Fr Tom returned to Vietnam and later accompanied war veterans who, he said ‘often started to heal when they saw the chaos of war replaced by peace’.
In 2013, Fr Thomas Harold Shanahan was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal for his “service to veterans and their families and to the community”.
Fr Tom died peacefully at Nioka, Tamworth Regional Hospital at the age of 86.
A funeral mass at St Nicholas' Catholic Church, Tamworth, was held on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, followed by interment in the Lincoln Grove Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Tamworth.