ALBURY'S longest serving priest, Father Kevin Flanagan, has announced he will be retiring after 54 years in the role.
The Sacred Heart North Albury Catholic parish priest for close to four decades informed churchgoers at weekend services he would be stepping aside in coming weeks with recent illnesses contributing to his decision.
“I am not planning to run in a marathon any time soon,” the 88-year-old joked.
“The enthusiasm is there and I would dearly love to continue on of course.
“It was very emotional for all of us, but I've had a wonderful innings.
“There is nothing I didn't want to do, but maybe some things I didn't do as adequately as I would have liked.”
Father Flanagan survived a heart attack in 2003 when he was approaching retirement age, but has continued on for another 14 years to be the priest of choice for countless weddings, funerals and baptisms in addition to regular church services.
Recent struggles with pneumonia and fluid on his lungs has finally convinced him to step down and join his 91-year-old sister Dorothy at Murray Gardens Retirement Village in Albury.
He is still to nominate a date to commence retirement and hopes to have input into his successor.
“You need a particular person here because people come from all different places,” he said.
He remains proud of his close association with nearby St Anne's Primary School and also his connection with the Albury Aboriginal community.
A plaque recognising 50 years as a priest exists in the school grounds.
Father Flanagan’s first job upon graduating from St Patrick's College at Ballarat was in his parents’ general store at Tocumwal before deciding to become a priest.
After being ordained by Bishop Francis Henschke, his first posting was to Narrandera followed by stints at Wagga and time abroad in New Guinea.
He has also served under bishops Frank Carroll, William Brennan and the recently retired Gerard Hanna in the Wagga Diocese.
In retirement, Father Flanagan plans to do even more reading and follow the fortunes of his favourite AFL team Melbourne.
He also hopes to be able to attend a match at the MCG where he has been a full member of Melbourne Cricket Club since the age of 12.