Sue Cleary's Memories

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Sue Cleary Transcription, recorded over Teams on the 19/01/2023 at Paul Sartori House.

Present: Susan Cleary, (SC), Simon Hanock (SH) and Kiara Quimby (KQ).



00:00:04 SH: What is your full name?

00:00:06 SC: Susan Elizabeth Cleary.

00:00:09 SH: Do we have permission to recall this interview?

00:00:12 SC: Yes, you do.

00:00:14 SH: Where and when were you born?

00:00:16-19 SC: I was born in Cardiff. October the 25th, 1952.

00:00:22 SH: How did you meet Father Paul Sartori?

00:00:26 SC: Met him when he was serving as a priest in the parish in Haverfordwest.

00:00:32-35 SH: And what's your early earliest memory, or memories of Father Sartori?

00:00:38 - 01:24 SC:

Earliest memories, probably because my husband was living in a flat in Haverfordwest first time away from home he had, as always gone to the Catholic Church to make himself known. And so, our first memories of him were welcoming us into the parish and knowing that he liked to go out for a drink, he would go out for a drink sometimes with the boys.

And seeing him riding around Haverfordwest on his motorbike and thinking, my goodness, me, this is more than a priest, this is a real bloke, you know. One of the lads. So that was the first.

Our first meeting with him and getting to know him was as, as newcomers to the parish, really.

00:01:26 SH: What? When did you move to Haverfordwest?

00:01:29 SC: Rory was there in 1974. That was his. When he first moved there, and I joined him a bit later after we got married in 75.

00:01:39 SH: So, he really struck you as being what, unconventional, for a priest?

00:01:42-08:05 SC: Very, yes, very unconventional as a priest and someone who likes to mix with the young people, he was young himself.

Really, someone who like to mix with the young people like to get to know the young people and unconventional in as much as the things that he would say during Mass. Led you to believe that he was so much more than just a priest. I mean, that sounds silly. He was a human being first and foremost with his faults and his admissions to his faults. And. And I remember one occasion during a, a service he had berated the congregation because we, we had another priest there, parish priest who was older and not as interesting, and people would put their heads around the door. And if they saw it was the older priests, they would go away and come back when Father Sartori was saying mass.

And on one Sunday. Oh, my goodness me, he let rip, he said to us all. You do not come to church for the priest. He said you come to worship God, and we were quaking in our seats.

But we didn't take any notice of it. We still only went to listen to him preach, you know, because he was, he was a good preacher and another occasion during a service which was one of the reasons why I felt that he was so much so human, was it was during the consecration, and he was literally holding the host up and he stopped and he looked at us and he said, “How many of you actually believe this is the body of Christ?” You know, this is the priest asking us because, he said “Sometimes I don't believe it. I don't.” and he says, “I have to work really hard at reminding myself of why I'm here and the, the importance of this moment in in the service.” And it really hit home to me that here was a man who was not just a man, he was a priest who was able to say it's not plain sailing. We all have doubts and it's OK.

And that, as a young adult, made me feel. This is OK. This is good, this is what the church should be about, You know? And, and that's that was one of his, his strengths was bringing religion into your everyday life and making you feel that it was OK to have doubts and maybe some days you didn't think it was right and, and it was fine. It was OK and that helped me a lot with my faith as a young adult, we all struggle with.

You know, is this the right thing to do? Do we really want this anymore? And he really kept me in the church for a long time because of his philosophy and his way of reaching out to people and making, making them feel that the mass was for them. The church was for them. It wasn't just for priests and holy people and Saints. It was for everybody, you know? So that was that was my experience of him in Haverfordwest later on.

I think I told you he married us. And Rory and I were married in 1975 in Cardiff. Which was where we were both from originally and our parish priest at the time agreed that Father Paul could actually come to Cardiff and marry us.

And now, before the wedding, traditionally Rory had a stag night to which Father Paul went, and on the day itself, June the 19th, 1975 July the 19th, I arrived at the church in the car, and I was told by the usher. “Could you go around the block?” and I thought ohh crumbs.

The groom hasn't arrived, you know. With it so off I go round the block. Come back. “Could you go round again? The priest hasn't turned up.” “Oh, no. What are we gonna do?”, “He's driving up from Haverfordwest.” So, I went round a third time and when I got there, there he was. Bright as a ray of sunshine.

“Hi everything alright? Yes. Come on then.” Then it was all roped up and into the church. We went lovely service. We got to the sermon.

And he said to the congregation, “Just sit down and talk among yourselves. What I've got to say is only for Rory, and Sue.”

So, we sat there with our backs to the congregation. And you know, I have a I can't for the life of me, remember what he said, but all I know is he had us in fits of laughter, and the congregation could just see our shoulders going up and down, up and down, laughing at whatever it was that he said to us. And they didn't want to share it with the congregation just for us.

Which that was that was a nice little personal touch.

You know, so, so that was my. Those are my main memories about Father. Poor. Later on, when he became sick, where he had been moved to Swansea and he went to visit him in the hospital.

And of course, because of his illness, he was lying face down. It was very difficult to sort of converse with him.

Very tragic, very sad, great loss taken far too soon, but I think in the short time that he was there he touched the hearts of so many people and you'll know yourself.

That legend is still alive with all the Paul Sartori Foundation and all the charity shops, and we were actually down in Tenby last Easter. And we said we're going to have a little ride into Neyland and have, we’d have a look around and we were in Neyland and there was a Paul Sartori charity shop.

And I said “we've got to go in and we're gonna buy something! I don't care what it is we've just got to go in!”

And the lady in there, we told her that we knew him and she said, well, she, she didn't know him. She was too young to know him, but she said the number of people would go into the shop. Just because they remember him and they just want to keep his memory alive, keep that foundation going, you know, keep giving as he did, you know, giving all the time. Wonderful, man. Absolutely wonderful.

00:08:17 SH: How would you describe him as a person?

00:08:21- 00:09:08 SC: Fun. A little 0utrageous, perhaps.

And kind. I think the kindness and this, the willingness to get to know people.

To take the time to talk to them, whether it was. In the pub or after Mass or whatever he was, he always had time for people, and I think those I, I think the fun thing is, is the one thing I remember most. He liked to laugh, he liked the joke, he liked a bit of fun and he. Yeah, he always, You were so smiling, you know he was always a happy chappy. Yeah. Sorry. I don’t know how to describe it.

00:09:10 SH: Thank you. I think you've probably anticipated this to some extent, but do you have any other favourite, favourite stories about Father Paul?

00:09:20 SC: Yeah, I think the two most favourite with the wedding and the and the occasional Mass. I think those are my absolute favourites, yeah.

00:09:30 SH: Thank you. And we always ask the interviewees, did Father Paul impact your life in some way? Well, obviously he married you and your husband. So that's a that's a quite a fundamental influence. Can you think of?

00:09:41 SC: That's a big impact. Yeah.

00:09:43 SH: Any other impact he might, can you think of? Any of the impact you might have had?

00:09:49 -10:08 SC: Well, I think as I said in the beginning, he kept me. He kept me in the church. He kept my faith going for a long time at a time when perhaps, you know, a lot of young people would have been leaving the church early 20s and. Yeah. So that was an impact. And I will never forget, you know, the things that he said.

And you know now, I mean, I did leave the church for a while. I'm back, and I often think about what he used to say. And, and that I think that's the biggest impact he's had on my life. Is my religion, really.

00:10:24 SH: OK. Thank you.

00:10:25 SH: And I know this is a difficult question, but if you could sum up Father Paul in three words. What would they say, What would they be?

00:10:35 SC: Fun, I said. Unconventional, which was the word you used. And sincere.

00:10:46 SH: Thank you. And is there anything finally else you'd like to mention?

00:10:54 SC: I don't think so so. I don't, I think I've said everything that I need to.

00:10:59 SH: Well, thank you. Thank you so much, Sir. It's been really, really useful having you share your memories of Father Paul with us and very, very grateful and good to see you across the Irish Sea

00:11:06 SC: Thank you.