A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr Philip King-Turner sm

Phil King-TurnerWhat follows  are eulogies delivered by  his sister and brother, Colleen and Ray at the Sacred Heart Church Reefton on 25 July 2014.

Eulogy by Colleen King-Turner rndm, Phil’s Sister

I would like to share Phil as I know him – some stories are from the family, some from my own experience of him and some others have shared with me.

There was one family story about Phil when he was about 3. He decided he was going to run away. Mum watched out the kitchen window as he walked off along the track to where it disappeared around the hill. “Well we’d better go and get him “said Mum to Ray. Suddenly Phil was coming back, screaming , his little legs working like pistons. Behind him trudged the old draught horse. Phil was adventurous even then.

His love of the sea and boats came from our Dad and our life style on D’Urville Island. Phil’s stories, which formed the basis of many of his homilies pay tribute to this. He never forgot his roots – D’Urville  Island and especially Whareatea Bay.

Phil initially wanted to become a Brother, but Father Joe Cahill, a close family friend from D’Urville Island days, encouraged Phil to try for the priesthood. At his first Mass in 1963, Father Joe SM was his companion and preached the Homily. I have always remembered this one sentence:

“No-one , not even the Pope, can do anything greater than this young man can now do – celebrate the Eucharist.”I wrote to Phil for his Silver Jubilee  - and I have kept his reply for 26 years. I would like to share one sentence of it with you.

“25 years of priesthood has been in my mind a long time, mainly in the theme of wonder and gratitude at the goodness of Jesus. He chose me and reserved me in His Priesthood in spite of me, before ever I did a good thing for Him.”

He was a great DIY man. His first parish in Tonga needed a Church, so he built one with his parishioners at Ha’apai.

He used his love of boats and the sea in his many years in Tonga. If the mission needed a boat and didn’t have one, he built one and made sure the men knew how to maintain the boat and which side of the lagoon to anchor the boat depending on the weather.

He used the boat to help his parishioners to get around but often travelled alone. He took the precaution of of trailing a long rope off the stern of the boat in case he fell overboard.  He could grab the rope as the boat chugged by and haul himself aboard. He said “Then I kicked the boat for letting me fall off”.

When he came home from the Islands, he helped Dad who was building the “Dolphin” Later he got a lifeboat, cut it in half, lengthened it and had a new boat to build. This one called “Irwyn”. Phil said he was doing this to give Dad something to think about while Phil was away in his NZ parishes.

A special gift Phil had was to be totally committed to the task in hand, to spreading the Good News that God loves us no matter what we do or what we are. We are totally loved by God. From Wanganui, to Tonga, Nuie, Fiji, Flaxmere or wherever he was asked to go, he gave himself wholly, gave his all. “I can’t do that” was never part of his vocabulary.

His down-to-earthness was evident in his homilies, his dress (‘Why clean the marine paint off my shoes? It’s just a good advert for the paint that it lasts so long.) The way he planned his funeral. We have tried to honour the simplicity that he wanted by having just a few homegrown flowers.

His compassion. If he was needed, he was there. I was told that someone in Wellington wanted to talk to him. Although he was so unwell himself, he went. If you had an opinion that was contrary to his beliefs he would say, “I hear you. I hear what you are saying.” Never a comment like “You’ve got it all wrong. That’s not right” He always tried a different approach. But when he had to be firm or challenge, he did it compassionately.

I asked Phil once,  “Those stories you tell. How much of those are true?”

“About 80%. 15% adjusted to suit the occasion and 5% pure fiction.”

Finally, Phil was a man of Prayer. His daily hour with Jesus was as important as breathing for him. From this daily source he drew the strength to be totally for his God.

I’m glad that Ray, Honora and I had Phil for a brother. We will miss him very much and so will many others. Thank you for coming to share this time with us.

Go well Phil. Rest in peace but please walk beside us – we need you still.

Mission Boat

Eulogy by Ray King-Turner, Phil’s older brother.

Father Phil’s family is humbled and grateful that so many have come from so far to pay their respects.

Phil’s career covered being a missionary, boatbuilder, engineer, Parish Priest and of course , part time coffin maker.

We grew up together at Whareatea Bay, D’Urville Island. Our parents taught us well, about boats, engines and fishing. All the important stuff. We were good mates; we used to fight a lot but it never came to much and we stayed close throughout our lives.

He went to the priesthood and I went to the Military, but whenever we met, the conversation always got around to “Remember when…..”

As a missionary, he spent most  of his time in Tonga and there he built a launch, a mission boat, Fetu’u Moana to service his Island Parish. He organised a banana plantation and built a packing shed. He needed a truck to transport the bananas and he just happened to be friends with an American VSA worker whose Dad just happened to be a General in the American Army. In due course a 2 ½ ton truck turned up and got the job done. It may be that the Americans are still looking for their truck, but that’s how things worked in Phil’s world. The word went out, and the gear came back.

A long time ago I heard someone say that the true mark of a man is when he leaves this world a little better than when he found it. I believe those words are true for him.

To the good people of this parish, I can tell you that Father Phil in his twilight years was happy here. So thank you for that.

Safe journey, Father Phil and peace be with you. Full ahead both engines and may you find safe Harbour.

God bless.   

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