By J. Brock (FINN)
Monsignor Anton Agreiter deep in conversation with the Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey
A memorial Mass to pray for the repose of the soul and to give thanksgiving for the life of Monsignor Anton Agreiter was held at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Stanley, Falkland Islands at 1700 on Saturday, 25 October 2003. Fr. Charles Carmack conducted the Mass before a full congregation that included representatives from Legislative Council, Government House, FIG, Christ Church Cathedral, the Tabernacle Free Church and Seamen’s Mission as well as St. Cuthbert’s at Mount Pleasant Complex (MPA).
The entrance hymn, played by guest organist, Alex Sanders, was "All People That on Earth Do Dwell."
Fr. Charles’ Words of Welcome:
"Good evening everyone. Welcome to all the parishioners of St. Mary’s. And, a very special welcome to those of you from other churches or perhaps no church at all. But we will come here this evening to pay respects to the memory of Monsignor Anton Agreiter. I would like to welcome, too, the people who are listening at home, whether they are out in the Camp or at MPA and particularly to those who are house-bound, unable to get out.
During this Mass, we are going to pray for the repose of the soul of Monsignor Agreiter. And, we are going to thank God for the gift of his life. In his time, he served many people. But we remember especially the time he spent here in the Falklands. For sixteen years, he was Parish Priest here in St. Mary’s. He died in the land of his birth, but for nearly a quarter of his life, he made the Falklands his home. And, to its people, he gave his all. So, it is right that we should remember him."
Mass began with the words of the confession and the absolution. This was followed by a collect for Monsignor Agreiter.
The first reading, done by Eugene (Gene) Williams was from the Book of Wisdom Chapter 3 vs. 1-6,9. This was followed by the Psalm, the 23rd and this was sung. The second reading, Romans 8:31-35 was taken by Mrs. Bernadette Pring. Fr. Charles read the Gospel, John 14, 1-6.
"Many of us have seen yesterday’s newspaper. It’s got an obituary on Monsignor Agreiter and quite a good photo originally, though the photo was one of Monsignor with Gene Williams. But, thanks to modern technology, it’s been possible to eliminate Gene and so leave Monsignor on his own.
When the newspaper asked for a picture of Monsignor to go with its article, I looked for one of him in his pontificals - dressed up as a Monsignor. But I just couldn’t find one. Such photos as we could turn up were all of him with somebody else. None were of him on his own. And, all the recent ones showed him thin and drawn and immersed in work.
This, I think, was typical of him. He never thought of himself alone. Always, he was concerned about others – about their health – their general well being – their families – their work. Yet, he was a very private man. He made very few close friends but such close friends as he did have – they were, I think, mainly here in the Falklands or on Tristan.
I won’t bore you with an itemised review of his life – that’s been done quite admirably by the obituary in the newspaper. But I can, perhaps, flesh it out a little, from a personal knowledge of him going back nearly fifty years – back to 1954. Because that’s when he came to Mill Hill in London to study Theology.
He came from the Tyrol – that’s the beautiful mountainous area of the Dolomites in Northern Italy. Until the end of WWI, it was part of Austria but then in 1918, or soon after, it was appropriated by Italy as the spoils of war. But the people were all German speakers and, obstinately remained so, even until today. And, this explains Monsignor Agreiter’s fairly strong German accent. He was a bit sensitive about it but unreasonably so, I thought, because his command of English was so superb. He was, in fact, a good linguist. He was fluent in German, English, Latin (He used to lecture in Latin.) and was very competent in Italian and Spanish .He was also very good in Luganda, which is the main language in Uganda.
Academically, he was also good. He had a Doctorate in Law. He had diplomas in Liturgy and in Counselling. So, it wasn’t surprising that he should spend twenty years or more teaching and in academic administration in England and also in Uganda. But I think life changed abruptly for him in 1986 because that’s when he was appointed Prefect Apostolic of the Islands to replace Monsignor Daniel Spraggon who had only recently died.
I am sure Monsignor Agreiter would have regarded this as the beginning of the richest experience in his life. He threw himself into the life of the Islands – he got to know the people – the places – the history. He made the Falklands his home – he dug his garden – he mended watches – he travelled around – he visited the hospital – he visited the prison. He was concerned about the crews on the fishing boats. He made himself, as Jock Fairley said in his letter, available to everybody. And, he didn’t restrict himself to the Falklands. Never mind the travelling involved, every year he tried to visit the other Islands in his patch – Ascension – St. Helena – Tristan da Cunha. And, indeed, it was to Tristan that he had hoped to retire, should he eventually be allowed to hand over the Prefecture to someone else. But this wasn’t to be. As we all know, he developed stomach cancer and last week, after eighteen months and a great deal of suffering, he died.
For another person, that might have looked like a disaster. Like annihilation, to quote the Book of Wisdom, which Gene has just read. But Tony would have seen things differently. Among his many qualities, he was a man of faith and trust in God. He saw life as a pilgrimage that could lead here or there – perhaps along paths that he would not have chosen for himself. But whatever the paths, he recognised that they would all, in the end, lead through death to God. Throughout his life, he made his own, those words of St. Paul, "With God on our side, who can be against us?" It enabled him to surmount his various trials and, like St. Paul, to be certain that nothing could come between him and the love of God made visible in Christ.
And, when he died last week, in his 70th year, his life had come full circle. He had been born in Brixen, he died in Bozen, not far away. Most of his life, up to the age of 20, he spent far from his beautiful homeland. He became a traveller for Christ’s sake, following his command to go and teach. He devoted his life to following in the footsteps of our Lord, who had said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ The motto of the Mill Hill Missionaries – that’s the congregation to which he belonged, Amere Et Serviere. That means, to love and to serve.
Lets pray that when we come to die, we, too can look back on lives as full of love and of service as could Monsignor Tony Agreiter. May he rest in peace."
The Nicene Creed followed, with the Offertory hymn, "Abide With Me" following.
PRAYERS FOR TONY AGREITER:
"So, knowing that Jesus has made it possible for us to approach God, our Father, we confidently pray for Tony Agreiter and for all those who have died.
We thank you, Father, for the life of Tony Agreiter and for the many ways in which he touched the lives of people in these Islands. Now that his life work is over, we pray that he might rest in peace. We remember all the members of his family as they mourn for him, especially his brothers and sisters. May the Lord comfort them in their grief.
Lord of life, into your care, we commend the soul of Anton Agreiter and of all those who wait to share in the resurrection of Your Son, our Redeemer.."
Those of the Falklands community that have recently died were also remembered as well as people throughout the world who have lost loved ones.
The Eucharistic service followed, with the Communion Hymn being "O Lord, My God." After Communion, the recessional Hymn was "Hail Queen of Heaven."
(Intro, Prayers and Homily by 100X Transcription Service)