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President Tony calls it a day

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Outgoing Sydney St Vincent de Paul President Tony Cranney with his wife Maggie at their Oyster Bay home with their pampered pooch Lucy. PHOTO: ALPHONSUS FOK

‘Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord’ has always been at the centre of Tony Cranney’s mission.

As the outgoing Sydney president of the St Vincent de Paul Society, his four year term came to an end this week, after being at the helm during some of the nation’s toughest times including droughts, bushfires, floods and – of course – COVID.

With the Society currently experiencing record numbers of requests for assistance due to the rising costs of living, he predicts tougher times ahead.

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Working long hours as a plumber as well as having a large extended family of his own, it’s Tony’s tireless giving of himself for others that has earnt him the title “Saint” in his Sutherland Shire community.

Delivering food, collecting donations and arranging for appliances and whitegoods to be delivered to people in need, advocating for those who may have fallen through the cracks or just lending a shoulder for someone to cry on.

Even going through more than 40 painful medical procedures to donate a kidney to a mate in trouble, there’s nothing Tony won’t give.

However, the one gift he happily received through his volunteering with Vinnies is wife Maggie.

Meeting through the mission, the couple were “working” at Engadine RSL in 2003 which had been set up as an evacuation centre for those threatened by bushfires, and the pair have been inseparable ever since.

A couple of times a week often under the cover of darkness, the couple can be seen heading out at all hours of the night and day to help someone in need, which he says is quite simply “their way of spreading the good word of the Lord”.

Tears stream down his face as he reflects not only on the sheer need in the community but also the enormous generosity.

“The Society, without doubt, does its best work when faced with adversities such as fires or floods, supported wonderfully by the clergy and parishioners throughout the Catholic community as well as the general population,” he said.

“As a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society I have been visiting sick, poor, sad, lonely people, people with disabilities and those living with mental health issues for 36 years.

“Our presence in a person’s home, hospital room, jail cell, or on the street gives them the opportunity to bear witness to Christ himself – through us. When a person in need receives charity, this might be the only opportunity for Christ to be welcomed into their home.”

One of Tony’s thousands of ‘clients-turned-mates,’ Ian describes him as the “Holy Father.” Without Tony he probably wouldn’t be here today.

He regards him as the face of Jesus and finds it difficult to find the words to explain the effect he has had on his life.

“He really is a saint, whenever I need him he just appears, he is the most generous person I know, an absolute Godsend,” Ian said.

“I haven’t got much but what I do have is mostly because of him.

“You don’t come across people like him very often so despite everything I’m a pretty bloody lucky bloke.”

Tony reflecting on his term as president

Reflecting on his term as president, Tony admits he does have some regrets but also a lot to be proud of.

He said he knows there’s still a lot to be done but just hopes he’s left it in a better place than when he started.

“In today’s world, terms such as ‘corporation’, ‘centralisation’, ‘globalisation’, ‘restructure’ and ‘strategic plan’ roll off the tongue pretty easily. Yet more frequently, we, the members of St Vincent de Paul, are involved in discussions involving these words,” he said.

“We open and close our meetings with prayer, we have a spiritual reading followed by discussions, so you can see why this might be confusing.

“Are we a business or a charity?

“I have been asked this many, many times over the years and the answer is always the same … we are both but truly we are God’s business.

“More challenging is getting the balance right between a corporate identity and a spiritually-based membership, whose primary focus is to love and serve the Lord. “At the end of the day we won’t reach our full potential until we work out how to work together harmoniously and that is what I pray for.”

John Walden will take over as new Sydney President of the St Vincent De Paul Society. Tony will continue as Oyster Bay president, Matthew Talbot president and acting regional president of Liverpool.


Society Elects new President

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