Poetic voice finally sees light of day

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Love of Fate is a collection of poems written by Fr Maurice Crittenden. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Love of Fate is a collection of poems written by Fr Maurice Crittenden. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

A new collection of poetry reveals the talent of a little-known Sydney poet who was much admired by all who knew him, including a generation of the archdiocese’s priests.

Love of Fate is a collection of poems written by Fr Maurice Crittenden, published with commentary by his brother Paul, a retired Sydney University philosophy professor and former dean of its faculty of Arts, after Fr Maurice’s death in October 2016.

Born in 1937, Fr Maurice was ordained a priest for the Sydney archdiocese in 1963 and served in Maroubra, Enfield, Camperdown and Sutherland parishes for 11 years before largely retiring from active ministry.

He suffered from debilitating depression throughout his life and began writing poetry seriously in the mid-1970s while recovering after treatment for the illness at St John of God Hospital in Sydney.

Apart from a stint in the Redfern parish working for a time with Fr Ted Kennedy and Shirley (Mum Shirl) Smith, Fr Maurice’s ministry in later life centred around reflection on religion and life in the context of his development as a poet, said Mr Crittenden.

Fr Maurice’s story features in a new series of audio reflections by Sydney’s Monsignor Tony Doherty produced by the Archdiocese of Sydney.

In the series, titled Priests I have Known, Monsignor Doherty aims to “collect a few memories of these friends of mine before their lives slip into the dust of time”.

Paul Crittenden with a volume of his brother Maurice’s poetry. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Paul Crittenden with a volume of his brother Maurice’s poetry. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Paul believes his brother’s poetry has the potential for wide appeal as a testimony to hope and even joy in the midst of life’s difficulties and darker moments.

Fr Maurice’s first major poem, Trinity Sunday 1980, was published in the Bulletin Literary Supplement in 1980 and exemplifies a number of features of his work, including the influence of poets such as Gerard Manly Hopkins and the Romantic poets and a love of Sydney’s history, people, places and sport.

“He liked to write copies of his poetry out and send it to people, particularly to fellow clergy,” said Mr Crittenden.

“He was always seeking to understand and overcome his depression and he succeeded to some extent.

“He enjoyed meeting people and kept up his friendships particularly with clergy.

“His life was a struggle but he always did come through.

“His joy consisted in a basic religious orientation combined I think with the fact that he was much loved by his family and very close to all six of us siblings, and took a great interest in his nieces and nephews.”

Copies of Love of Fate can be purchased directly from Mr Crittenden for $20 plus $5 postage by emailing [email protected]