Fr Malcolm Sherrard died in Wellington, New Zealand, 30 June aged 86 years.
I didn't know Father Mal very well as we worked in different areas in the Philippines. I found him to be a quiet individual. Fr Michael Gormly, a Columban from New Zealand, describes him in the obituary below as a true product of the pre-Vatican church, shaped by practices and devotions from earlier years. When I came to the Philippines in 1971 it was common to hear younger 'post-Vatican II' priests and others, and not only in the Philippines, describe the Church as 'community' and not 'buildings'. I didn't come across too many who didn't live in a building! But the missionary priests of those days did a tremendous amount with and for the people, establishing parishes, building schools, clinics and churches and so much more. None of the men I knew boasted about this. They just got on with the job and in doing so helped build vibrant communities of Catholics.
Fr Malcolm, the older son of Samuel and Margaret Sherrard, was born in Whanganui on 21 December 1925. He received his primary schooling in Feilding, and secondary education at St Patrick’s College, Silverstream. He prepared for seminary formation with evening study of Latin while working on the family sheep farm in the Manawatu.
Volunteering for overseas mission, he joined the spiritual year at St Columban’s, Lower Hutt, near Wellington, in 1948, and later moved to North Essendon, Victoria, Australia. His studies were completed at Dalgan Park, Ireland. From the early 1950s he carried a lasting sense of achievement from long holiday cycle tours across Europe. After ordination in 1954 he was assigned to the Philippines as a missionary priest.
Although the tropics were demanding, Fr Malcolm found stamina to maintain a rugged pace for many years. Blessed with a calm and assured manner, his ministry was in rural areas. Mission was the straight-forward task of keeping a parish functioning, and reaching out to meet basic social needs in the scattered communities.
His principal missionary experience was in the Diocese of Iba in the Province of Zambales, first in Botolan, and later in the remote town of Poonbato. A movie from that time, Never to be Lonely, presents him as a tall, confident, active fellow, totally at home in the local situation. He operated with steely determination, some would say a stubborn streak.
Over the years he supervised the building of churches, set up medical clinics, organised emergency relief in times of natural disasters, and was the director of a number of schools. Civil authorities acknowledged his deep concern for the welfare of people in the district. His one aim was to see that the projects touched and enriched the lives of the poor.
Fr Malcolm later spent a number of years on the road in New Zealand, visiting parishes and schools with movies and slides to illustrate his mission message. For the most part, he remained a true product of the pre-Vatican church, shaped by practices and devotions from earlier years. Colleagues reckon we are not to see the like of him again.
Celebrations with Graeme, Jean and family (family members) were times of pride and delight for Fr Malcolm. Likewise, the support and encouragement of the Wellington Filipino Community were a blessing to him. Every visitor to the Columban Mission at Boulcott will fondly remember his gentle manner in hospitality. Kindness was his second name. A genuine concern for others and a selfless readiness to meet needs were at the heart of his missionary priesthood.
May he rest in peace.
Fr Michael Gormly