POPULAR priest Father Tom Grufferty is bidding a fond farewell to parishioners – following almost 500 baptisms and 120 weddings.
Father Tom, who has been in charge of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in West Street, Havant and St Thomas’s in Emsworth, for 22 years has been asked to take up a new post in Dorset.
He is much-loved by his congregation and the wider community in Havant where he has forged close links between all the churches.
Fr Tom, from County Mayo in Ireland, said he will miss the area a great deal but is looking forward to a new challenge.
‘A move following a lengthy stay in one place is a great opportunity to take stock of one’s blessings on how one is enriched,’ he said.
‘I have been powerfully enriched by people. Parishioners have become real friends.
‘I’ve soldiered together with Christians of other denominations in which they have learned from me and I have discovered new ways of doing things from them.
‘We’re blessed with all the churches doing wonderful things together. I shall miss that friendship and fellowship.’
And Fr Tom said the place he has called home for more than two decades has much to be proud of.
He said: ‘I’ve also taken stock of the life in south-east Hampshire.
‘It is an ideal environment with mixed facilities, with the benefit of the sea.
‘I have enjoyed the South Downs for beauty and walking and the flat landscape for cycling between Havant and Emsworth.
‘The house in which I have lived all those years has been a happy home, used by many people for gatherings and meetings. They have always respected my freedom and individuality.’
Fr Tom said his greatest memories are of the hundreds of baptisms he has carried out.
He has carried out 118 weddings and says the new Oaks crematorium is an asset to Havant.
He added: ‘My work in St Thomas More’s School and Oaklands has given me great satisfaction. I leave the area for pastures new with many wonderful memories and eager to face new horizons and a new landscape.’