Sydney
17 August 2003

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Obituary: Papal knight who just liked to help

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Obituary: Papal knight who just liked to help

Cecil Baz 1907-2003

It was one of the wet-test days on record in Sydney, but Our Lady of the Rosary Church at Kensington was packed.

The occasion was the funeral service for Cecil Baz, 95, a papal knight and outstanding lay leader of the Church in Sydney.

His cousin, Bishop Pat Power, of Canberra and Goulburn, was chief celebrant at the Pontifical Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial, assisted by the Bishop of Bathurst, Bishop Pat Dougherty, the Melkite Bishop of Sydney, Bishop Issam Darwish, and several priests.

Cecil Baz was born at Redfern in November 1907, the fourth of seven sons of Charles and Sarah Baz, who had migrated from Lebanon.

His younger brothers Fred, Albert and Alex all live in Sydney.

The family belongs to the Melkite Rite of the Catholic Church. Indeed, Cec was a trustee and treasurer of the Melkite Church in Sydney for 50 years.

Assimilation was important to Cec’s parents so the family all practised in the Roman Rite as well.

Cec began his schooling at Muswellbrook, then went to St Joseph’s primary in Redfern.

In 1923 he completed his schooling at Patrician Brothers, Waterloo, and according to a newspaper clipping from the time he won the Cardinal’s medal and the considerable sum of £10 for highest marks in the Archdiocesan Intermediate Certificate Examination.

Cec spent most his working life at Bookallil’s Frocks. He also operated a successful boutique dressmaking factory in partnership with Maude Conway.

In October 1934 he married Mary Bookallil. They had seven children: Jim, Rod, Alison and Denise, twins Gerard and Maree and Terry.

Mary died in 1979.

Cec stayed on in their Kensington house until the big hailstorm four years ago.

Then he moved into St Joseph’s Private Nursing Home where he led the life of a monastic.

Cec greatly admired the Sisters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and served them in Kensington, Randwick, Leura and Bowral.

As a young lad he was part of the voluntary labour that helped build classrooms at Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School in Kensington. Later he initiated the surfacing of the playground and organised voluntary building of covered lunch areas.

In 1955 he organised parishioners who worked at night and on weekends for three months to put a ceiling in the old church and proper partitions between classrooms.

The same volunteers, three years later, painted all the primary school classrooms, installed fluorescent lights and heating and prepared the floor for vinyl tiles.

He organised planning and construction of Jubilee Hall and structural repairs, re-roofing and re-wiring and the installation of a PA system and new lighting in Our Lady of the Rosary Church.

In 1971 when the new infants’ school was built he was forever at the school, drawing up plans, generally organising and doing maintenance.

When his nephew and niece’s children began school they naturally called him “Uncle Cec”.

Soon whole classes affectionately called him “Uncle Cec”.

He was so crucial to the building progress of the secondary school that a new wing was named the Baz Wing.

He continued to work tirelessly for the Brown Nurses - Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor - running the annual “Day of Days”. The organisation went on for months.

When his sons Gerard and Terry were students at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, Cec was so active in fundraising that, although he had never been a student there himself, he was made a life member of the Old Boys Union, a honour he treasured.

He worked for years for Marcellin College at Randwick.

One of his greatest loves and involvements was St Margaret’s Hospital for Women, working with Sr Anne and her team on annual fetes, balls, button days, art unions and financing and building both private and public hospitals.

The Kensington Catholic Youth Organisation moved beds and cupboards into the new building and later did the same in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Hospital at Randwick.

Cec and the band of wonderful men and women who worked with him ran fundraising nights for St Patrick’s College, Goulburn.

They would travel all over to help worthwhile causes, many of them not Catholic.

Cec was embarrassed by praise.

Randwick Council honoured him in 1985 with an award for outstanding community service.

And in 1988 he was awarded a papal knighthood as a Knight Commander of the Order of

St Gregory the Great.

He also received the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the community.

He had a singular loyalty to the Labor Party. Local politicians, both state and federal, said that they could not have achieved what they did without the influence of Cec and the band of parishioners who helped their formation.

He saw priests and religious as God’s chosen people and would do anything for them.

When retired parish priest, Fr Tosi, was no longer able to look after himself, Cec went to the Little Sisters of the Poor every day and shaved him and did his shopping and tended to his needs until the priest died.

People were always seeking his advice and help. The telephone calls would begin with: “So and so told me that Cec might be able to help me out with …”

When asked why he spent so much time doing things for others, he would say: “It gives me pleasure to help”.

Cec was just generous. So many times during financial struggles, he would say: “Don’t worry about it. It’s only money.”