Fr Bob Maguire, Australia’s “patron saint of the unloved and unlovely” has been farewelled at a state funeral attended by people of all walks of life, held at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on 5 May.
In eulogies, reflections and thanksgivings Melburnians gave thanks for the life and work of the former parish priest of Sts Peter and Paul South Melbourne, who was well-known for both his work among the struggling and marginalised and for his irreverent sense of humour in media appearances on TV and radio.
Archbishop Peter Comensoli of Melbourne was principal celebrant at the Requiem Mass, and the Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, preached the homily.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews rubbed shoulders with infamous underworld personality Mick Gatto, current and former MPs, family and members of Fr Bob’s wide community of friends and congregants.
They packed the cathedral to celebrate a man whose religion was “sticking together through adversity” and who “reached the interfaith, the lapsed in faith, and those with no faith at all,” as Mr Andrews said in his eulogy.
“To see Bob in action was to witness something akin to a Biblical scene,” he said.
Fr Bob’s friend and media collaborator, the comedian and writer John Safran, said he had “spent so much time with Fr Bob over 20 years I feel like I can auto-generate an AI chat” about the state funeral.
“Bob, you’re dead, do you want a state funeral? ‘No.’ Why not?” Mr Safran quipped, before imitating the departed priest’s trademark voice and style:
“Oh, I’m not sure about the state and the church colluding in matters spiritual. It worries me. I want a Tibetan sky burial where you’re taken up the mountain and eaten by the birds.”
Mr Safran continued: “You always said there’s no you and me, there’s only we, and the great we, the people who loved you, need a chance to come together and say goodbye.
“And they’re not going to fit on top of that mountain in Tibet. And [Bob would] say, ‘Ok, have the funeral. But no flags.’”
In his homily, Archbishop Mark Coleridge paid tribute to Fr Bob’s influence on his own vocation to priesthood, and gave a detailed character study of a priest who was “a rebel within the church … the outsider who was, and needed to be, an insider.”
“Bob made the Catholic Church and the priesthood seem exciting, even fun,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“He called us all on an adventure, and that call has deeply shaped not only my life but the lives of so many others.”
“He rolled up his sleeves and got stuff done. He was down to Earth, had mud on his boots. He didn’t judge, nor condemn. He wasn’t tribal but opened his door to all.
“And not least, he had an unrivalled and uncontrived sense of humour. Now put that profile together and you have the kind of religion that has a chance in this country.”