by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Franciscan friar and priest Fr Lucian Armstrong was always optimistic — even as he lay in hospital a month before he died, according to fellow friar Fr Paul Smith, OFM.
Fr Paul, an Australian and the local provincial, celebrated the requiem Mass and delivered one of the eulogies for Fr Lucian at St Anthony’s Church in Mangere Bridge on May 2.
Fr Paul said he was sure many people know a lot more about St Francis and about God because of Fr Lucian.
In their last conversation, they touched on the end times, but Fr Lucian didn’t want to dwell on such things, because he was always optimistic.
“He said he had had a good life, that he had many, many friends among the clergy and religious, that he had travelled to many places and he enjoyed the camaraderie of the friars. “He loved being a friar and a priest.” An estimated 400-500 people were at the funeral Mass, including more than 50 priests and people from Australia and Otago.
The first eulogy was delivered by a niece, Christina. She described “Uncle Alan” as as person who loved everything he did in his life. She read a poem Fr Lucian wrote in 2011 that canvassed his entire life.
He was born in 1929 into a farming family in the Bay of Plenty, the eldest of two boys and a girl. When he was still young the family moved to Auckland, eventually farming at East Tamaki.r
It was at St Peter’s College that Lucian first came to know Franciscan friars. In 1947, he sailed for the novitiate in Sydney, where he stayed for six years. He made his solemn profession on March 1, 1952, and had the joy of having his first appointment to the friary in Auckland.
His next appointment was a contrast — at a facility for young offenders.He was ordained on July 24, 1955. Appointments that followed were:
1956-60, St Francis Friary, Auckland, vicar; 1961-62, Mt Eliza, Melbourne, vicar assistant; 1963-68, St Francis Friary, Auckland, guardian; 1969-74, Waverly, NSW, secretary of the province, commissary – Holy Land, guardian; 1975-80, Wahoonga, NSW, guardian; 1981-83, St Francis Friary, Auckland, superior for New Zealand; 1984-86, guardian, superior for New Zealand; 1987-88, Midland, Western Australia, guardian; 1989-92, Star of the Sea Friary, Waverly, guardian; guardian and NSW regional Secular Franciscan Order spiritual assistant; 1993, St Francis Friary, Auckland, SFO spiritual assistant; 1994-98, president of the foundation; 1999-2007, guardian, commissary – Holy Land; 2008-13, San Damiano, Mangere Bridge.
Fr Paul told mourners that Fr Lucian loved the Secular Franciscan Order. “He was proud when the SFO in New Zealand was granted the status of a national fraternity . . . no longer dependent on Australia.”
Fr Lucian was an incredible keeper of records, he said. “His chronicles in the house where he lived were filled with details of what the friars did and their social lives . . . and there were photos galore to accompany those records.” He was also a great movie buff, and among his hundreds of videos and DVDs were his pride and joy — his collection of nature films. “Those say lots about Lucian’s love of God’s creation.
“Lucian’s life certainly had a powerful impact on so many others, as a human being, a friar and a priest. . . .
“Luce was, in the words of the Gospel, one who gave food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty and because of that we can be certain that the Lord would have kept his promises. I believe that ‘insofar as you did these things to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did them to me’.”
Fr Lucian’s only remaining sibling, Mary, read one of the readings.
by PETER GRACE