Outspoken priest hits region for fund-raiser

THERE’S no small talk from Father Bob Maguire. 

Father Bob Maguire outside St Brigid’s church at Crossley yesterday.

Father Bob Maguire outside St Brigid’s church at Crossley yesterday.

Five minutes inside Crossley’s St Brigid’s Church Hall and the outspoken former Catholic priest is talking aloud in his strong Aussie twang about the upcoming federal budget. 

Those seated too far away drag their chairs behind him forming a semi-circle. 

Only odd laughter interrupts his monologue as he ricochets through politics and spirituality. 

It’s hard to picture any religious figure in modern Australia who commands as much respect as Father Maguire — known almost universally as Father Bob.

At 79 years old, Father Maguire is in town for the screening of a recent film about him at the Port Fairy Film Society, but took a brief detour yesterday to St Brigid’s Church — billed as a visit to a church without a priest from a priest without a church, 

The film — In Bob We Trust — has its origins in Father Maguire’s dismissal from the Catholic Church in 2012 after he reached the 75-years age cap for priests. 

In his campaign to stay put he let the media into his life, vowing to have “no unpublished thought”.

“It’s alright — I let them in,” he says of the movie and the filmmakers. 

“Once I got the nod (to leave the church) I thought there’s something wrong here.” 

Instead of a bitter fight, Father Maguire played the larrikin for the media — at one stage singing to the cameras “All we are saying is give priests a chance”. 

“They (the filmmakers) came to me and said would you like to put this on record and me being a bit feral said I’d like somebody to put it on record because it’s my telling of the story against the bosses.

“I don’t want to become bitter because it’s useless. If you’re looking for revenge you have to dig two graves. One for the person you’re after and one for yourself.” 

But it’s clear he still misses his former parish posting where he started in 1973. 

“We tried to put back together a local community again in South Melbourne, which had been demolished by developers in the 1960s. I arrived in the 1970s and I found myself with an empty church, an empty cell and an empty precinct,” he said. 

In the decades that followed he fought drugs and poverty in the city’s south. 

Now the self-described priest without a parish hasn’t given up. 

There’s a foundation in his name and a shop front in South Melbourne with a public kitchen ready to open its doors. 

“We’re opening an outreach headquarters in a minute where we can park vans and have a kitchen and we can store food and clothing,” he explains. 

Someone in the St Brigid’s hall asks the obvious question: where does he gets his energy?

He puts it down to Scottish heritage and “the Aussie sense of a fair go for all”. 

“I don’t mind being the priest of a parish without borders,” he says. 

“That’s how I’m here,” he says pointing to the hall. 

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