Father Patrick Fincutter, 1928-2016
Aviator and communicator fostered connections in Papua New Guinea
Father Patrick Fincutter SVD, a longtime missionary in Papua New Guinea, died suddenly at Techny on July 19.
Over the course of 40 years, Father Fincutter, 88, served the people of the world’s second largest island nation as priest, pilot, mechanic and professional communicator.
"Service was an outstanding quality of Father Pat’s life, and for us too, we are called to be good to others, unselfishly and unconditionally," said Divine Word Father Gerald Theis, who delivered the homily at Father Fincutter’s funeral.
The fifth of Joseph and Clara (nee Folliard) Fincutter’s eight children, Father Fincutter was born in Libertyville, Ill., on April 3, 1928.
From the age of five, the young Fincutter wanted to be a pilot, but he also felt called to be a priest. For a time, he resisted—thinking that the two vocations were mutually exclusive. Eventually, he chose the priesthood and only later learned that the Divine Word Missionaries relied on air travel in New Guinea and had founded a transportation hub called Wirui Air Services.
In 1943 at age 15, Father Fincutter followed his older brother John and enrolled at Divine Word Seminary in East Troy, Wis. Five years later, he professed vows at Techny and in 1955 was ordained to the priesthood.
Even though he immediately volunteered as a mission pilot, he served as a teacher and assistant prefect of students in the Brother Candidates High School at Techny for the first five years of his priesthood.
While wrapping up his final year at Techny, he prepared for his second assignment: the then-Vicariate (now Diocese) of Wewak on the north-central coast of Papua New Guinea, north of Australia. He began training as a pilot and aircraft mechanic, earning his American FAA Airframe and Powerplant aircraft mechanic license, an American private pilot license, and both private and commercial Australian pilot licenses.
In 1961, he fulfilled his lifelong dream. For nine years, he flew Cessna 180s and Dornier Do 27s as a mission pilot, fulfilling assignments that included medical emergency flights and supply deliveries. In 1969, his superiors appointed him as rector of the Divine Word community at Wirui. The administrative duties made flying less frequent, so he let his pilot’s license expire in the mid-1970s but he maintained his mechanic license until 1985.
After three terms as rector and time as association pastor of the Wewak cathedral, Father Fincutter—at the behest of his bishop—fostered communication throughout the diocese. For 22 years, he oversaw the Diocese of Wewak Communications Center (also known as the Wirui Recording Studio) and produced Bible reflections for Radio East Sepik, a government regional radio station that reached listeners across the island. He fondly became known as the "voice of the missions."
Having studied electronics, Father Fincutter also supervised the diocese’s radio maintenance shop and served as base station operator for the Wirui sked, the scheduling and coordination of flights in the area.
In 2001, at the age of 73, he returned to the United States and lived at the Divine Word Residence in East Troy, where he occasionally helped with Masses and confessions at area churches until moving to Techny in 2013.
He is survived by two brothers, Robert Fincutter and Father John Fincutter SVD.
Father Patrick Fincutter’s viewing was July 22 in the chapel of the Divine Word Residence at Techny, followed by the Mass of the Resurrection on July 23 in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Techny Towers Conference and Retreat Center. He was buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery at Techny.