December 30-31 2017: Feast of the Holy Family
In its Saturday January 15 1898 edition, the Nepean Times newspaper included a tribute to the recently deceased Father Phelan:
“A CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN
It is not often we have to record the death of one who was so deservedly respected as the late Rev James Phelan, whose death was reported in our last issue.
Father Phelan was one of the oldest priests in the diocese, and was the last but two receiving state aid , the other two being the Very Reverend Monsignor Rigney, of Prospect, now 86 years of age, and Arch Priest Sheehy. Father Phelan …was for a long time in charge of the Hartley District. He was afterwards at Braidwood, Subiaco and Penrith. The writer has known the rev. gentleman for upwards of 20 years as a most philanthropic and earnest Christian. His good deeds among the poor of the district and colony generally will never be effaced from memory of our oldest colonists. Many of the poorer families in Penrith and St Marys, it didn’t matter to what denomination they belonged, will miss periodical supplies of necessaries that came to them from an unknown source. For Father Phelan, when he knew of any case deserving, had goods sent to the homes with instructions that the parties were not to be told from whence they came. This happened hundreds of times. Then he gave liberally and unsolicited to both the Nepean Cottage Hospital and St Marys Benevolent Society. He was always of a jovial disposition, was fond of cracking dry jokes, and was known to his personal friends as being an exceedingly well read man. Although not in charge of any parish particularly, he solemnized Mass at intervals at St Marys, and generally assisted Father Sheridan. When Father Phelan left Penrith he had built for himself a very comfortable cottage on the Mamre Road, and poor persons who called there were never known to go away hungry. He attended to duties up to within a fortnight of his death, so that he virtually died in harness at the age of 77. After death he had all the honours that his Church could confer. On Friday a requiem Mass and solemn dirge was held at the R.C. Church, St Marys. Cardinal Moran, Bishop Higgins, and about forty priests took part in the services. The Rev J Sheridan was the celebrant of the Mass, Rev B Baugh deacon, Rev F Martin sub-deacon. The Cardinal gave the Absolutions in the Church, and also officiated at the grave. Among the clergymen present we noticed the Very Rev Dr O’Haran, Rev T O’Reilly, Rev James Mahoney, Rev B Sheridan, Very Rev Monsignor Rigney. The funeral procession was a very long one, and among those who attended were a very large number of Protestants, including Rev A O Corlette and Rev Alex Smith. On the Sunday evening too, Rev A O Corlette referred to the death of Father Phelan.”