Father Paul Neri Augustine Felix: The Man of Cordial Manner

He loved the Comboni Institute and spared no effort to fulfill its aims. In this same way, he loved the Church and spent his life in its service. 

Fr. Paul Felix’s sudden death on the 10th November, at only sixty-one, was a great shock to many. A Londoner by birth, Fr. Paul’s Mother was from County Mayo, in Ireland. He was only eleven when he asked to join our Junior Seminary, with the enthusiastic approval of his parish priest. It was as a junior seminarian in Yorkshire that he first showed a spirit of kindness and innate goodness that made him such a fitting missionary, never refusing to do cheerfully and willingly anything that was asked of him and much more. Scotland was the scene of his novitiate, followed by studies at the Missionary Institute in London which led to his ordination in Morden in 1981.

After a period of three and a half years as Vice-Rector of the Junior Seminary, where he was very much appreciated for his tireless work, he achieved his ambition to become a missionary in Africa. He ministered from the years 1984 to 1992 in the Ethiopian Province. This first experience of his was, just like learning the language of the place, by no means easy.

In 1992, he was recalled to serve in England at Sacred Heart Church, Sunningdale, where he was also Superior of the community. Two years later, he was asked to go to Leeds, where on his own, he ran the Missions Office on weekdays and did Mission Appeals at weekends.

In 1999, he returned to the Province of Ethiopia-Eritrea. Haikota was a difficult area of mission but, with his inimitable style, Fr. Paul, threw himself into his work. War broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Ethiopian army invaded the territory. He was obliged to leave Haikota, to go to the more secure city of Asmara.

In 2004, the General Council appointed him to the London Province, of which he became Provincial that same year. He was also placed in charge of the Secretariat for Missionary Animation in the European Provinces. He was the deciding factor in assuming the commitment of the parish of Battersea, in south-west London, for ministry among asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants. During that period, he was also editor of ‘Comboni Mission’ and regularly preached Mission Appeals.

He spent the last three years of his life in Leeds, again in charge of the Missions Office. He surprised everyone with his efficiency, his cordial manner and his ability to maintain good relations with everyone.

The real contribution Fr. Paul Felix made to the Comboni Institute is probably known only to the Almighty, but it is certainly true to say that he was a man who struggled to see the meaning of this world of contradictions.

He got along well with people of many nationalities and yet was totally true to himself. He was a Londoner born and bred, yet never forgot his Irish roots. He loved the Comboni Institute and spared no effort to fulfil its aims. He loved the Church and spent his whole life in its service.

We thank God for the gift of Fr. Paul’s all-too-short life among us and ask that we may understand what he worked so hard to teach us.

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