Fr. Paul Graham: a portrait of a quiet man always at the service of the Order and the Church
Updated: Dec 22, 2022
Between the ephemeral, the corruption, the beautiful and the eternal, we pass through life. Our brother, the General Councillor for Northern Europe, Father Paul Graham, went on many pilgrimages among cliffs, and took brisk walks on paths in various parts of the world, such as South Korea in 1985
Last Sunday, 11 December, we were shocked to learn of his death while he was performing his usual charitable service in the soup kitchen of the "Palazzo Migliori" in Rome, and where he was preparing to celebrate the Eucharist.
Attempts to revive him were in vain. We hope that he now enjoys eternal rest with the Lord and the saints of the Order of St. Augustine.
Founder in South Korea and nature lover
Fr. Paul, a religious of the Province of England-Scotland, of which he had also been Prior Provincial for three terms, served in the Order of St. Augustine in South Korea.
Provincial for three terms, has been General Councillor of the Order since September 2019, a position in which he has expressed his great passion for coordination and awareness-raising activities on issues of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation.
Born on the 24th of April 1947 in the British city of Newcastle-on-Tyne, Fr. Paul maintained throughout his life a close contact with the Augustinians, with whom he spent seven years of his secondary and high school education at the Augustinian Friars College in Carlisle.
"His dedication is what I would highlight the most. Whether as a parish priest, as a writer, as prior or general councillor. Always close, affectionate, discreet, reserved" - Fr. Robert Marsh
In 1970, after a first vocational discernment at the beginning of his university years, he entered the novitiate of Clare Priory, making his first profession a year later and was ordained priest in 1976. During this period he did his philosophy degree in Dublin and his theological training at the Gregorian University in Rome, as well as a master's degree in ecumenical studies in Ireland.
From 1977 to 1985, our dear Father Paul carried out his mission as a formator of students in different cities of the United Kingdom, until 1985, when he undertook one of the greatest adventures of his life: the foundation, together with another English colleague and two Australian brothers, of the Korean circumscription.
"Fr Paul was always a quiet, serious, simple man, one hundred percent committed to the daily task of being a faithful friar. His dedication is what I would highlight the most. Whether as a parish priest, as a writer, as prior or general councillor. Always close, affectionate, discreet, reserved. An attentive servant of the Order and of the Church, a follower of the doctrine of Pope Francis in matters of integral ecology and attention to the poor, and a lover of Augustinian spirituality, which he knew very well", says Robert Marsh, current Prior Provincial of England-Scotland. "The experience of Korea, as an evangelizing and missionary challenge, was something crucial that ran through his life", affirms Marsh.
Father Ian Wilson, with whom the General Councillor had worked with since his time in Birmingham in 1977, recalls some of Fr Graham's more personal experiences.
"He was passionate about the mountains. He loved nature with all his heart. He always kept fit until his knees began to give him problems, and even then, he was always first among us," Fr Ian notes. "He was an inveterate reader and writer, who was always passionate about both, contributing to the press and devoting a lot of time to study. "He was also a keen photographer and was often seen on excursions with his camera in tow," says Father Wilson.
As Fr Alex Lam, Fr Paul's colleague at the General Curia during his last years, reminded us, Paul's death coincided with World Mountain Day. This circumstance was recalled by Pope Francis - of whom he had studied the encyclical Laudato si' in depth - at the Angelus on Sunday 11 December, and is undoubtedly eloquent when it comes to recounting Fr Paul's last journey on earth to reach heaven.
From Clare to Rome: three times Prior Provincial
After almost 10 years in Korea, Paul Graham returned to the UK in 1993, where he held various responsibilities within the Order. From prior of the communities of Harborne and Clare to being elected in two different periods as Prior Provincial of England-Scotland, positions he held until 2017, where he went to Edinburgh for two years before settling in Rome.
As the official communiqué of the General Secretariat of the Augustinian Curia states, "we pray that Fr. Paul Graham is now in the company of the saints of our Order and of so many other brothers who shared with him the ardour of consecration and mission. United in sorrow and gratitude to the brothers of the Province of England-Scotland, we pray that the Lord will grant Fr. Paul the reward of the just and continue to offer, to our Order and to each one of us, the benefits of his solicitous work and his vehement passion for the Augustinian life".