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Farewell to Domus rector Fr Bob Hayes

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP farewelled Fr Bob Hayes as he concluded his term as rector of Domus Australia. Photo: Domus Australia
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP farewelled Fr Bob Hayes as he concluded his term as rector of Domus Australia. Photo: Domus Australia

Fr Bob Hayes was farewelled by staff, massgoers and Australian priests and seminarians living and working in Rome as he concluded his term as rector of Domus Australia, the pilgrim house in Rome, this week.

Fr Hayes began his role in October 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the boutique guest house was open, but most of Rome—and the rest of the world—was under lockdown.

While this could have proved difficult for the incoming rector, Fr Hayes used it as a time to get to build close bonds with the Domus Australia staff and built a good rapport with them.

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“The guests are important, but they come and go. Being a parish priest for the last 25 years or so, I got to know the staff well,” he said.

Fr Hayes recalled that the staff were initially scared of him, given that his predecessor, Msgr John Boyle, had told them he was “a military man and very scary.”

Fr Hayes was in the military reserves for more than 40 years. He recalled this story and more at a farewell gathering with the staff.

In Italian, he said: “I thank you all for the last three years for your kindness and friendship to me and accepting that I did not pick up the Italian language that well while I was with you.”

Fr Hayes later said that his grasp of Italian was so bad that the staff generously tried to learn English so they could better communicate.

At the dinner, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP thanked Fr Hayes for his service, fidelity and enthusiasm for Domus Australia, and also thanked the staff who collaborated so closely with him.

“Fr Bob has got to know each of you and is much respected by you all. He has been a great support and friendly face to the staff, as well as to all the guests who come through the doors each day,” the archbishop said.

He also joked that Fr Hayes, while 75 and technically heading into retirement, will be quickly put to work when he returns to Sydney.

“Retiring to lesser duties means the same amount of work, just spread across five different parishes,” Archbishop Fisher said.

While rector at Domus, Fr Hayes celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood, naming this as one of the highlights of his time in Rome.

His jubilee celebrations included a Mass, with Cardinal George Pell as principal celebrant and homilist, followed by a meal.

Fr Hayes commented that the Cardinal must have made a few phone calls to ensure he had some good stories for the homily.

“He knew too much!” Fr Hayes exclaimed.

While he returned to Australia this week, Fr Hayes intends to come back to Italy next year for holidays.

“It never gets old; it’s always new, it’s always fresh,” he said.

Fr Joseph Hamilton, ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Sydney in 2016, will succeed Fr Hayes as rector.

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