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Remembering Father Bob Maguire

  • 26 April 2023
‘Larger than life’ is a bit of an over-used term. Anyone who’s been around for a while knows just how vast a single life can be. That rough-looking old man eating a meal in the corner of the pub? The story inside him could fill a dozen novels.

Some people, however, live large. Their presence fills a room and stays with you for a long time afterwards. Father Bob Maguire, who died last week, was one of those people.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Fr Bob in 2006, during my first year as editor of Australian Catholics magazine. He gave me an hour and a half of his time, and I spent most of the time listening as he wandered through topics ranging from the differences in the founding stories of the USA and Australia (‘America started with a prayer service. We started with a drunken orgy’), the young people who connected with him through his program with John Safran (‘20 and 30-somethings who may have tasted the bitterness of life, lost somebody dear to them, or went broke, or had too much cannabis when they were teenagers and now they’re pot-heads’), and how Australia had the potential to be an example of a de-clericalised Church (‘Like Australian wildlife… it’s bizarre. Well Australian Catholicism should be like that.’) Fr Bob’s voice, his presence, leaves a mark on you. He left that mark on the lives of so many people, from so many walks of life.

I went to Mass at St Peter and Paul’s as well, just to see what he was like as a priest. It was a unique experience – I’m no liturgical expert, but it felt very different to what you’d experience in any other parish on Sunday. There was no entrance music – Fr Bob just walked out while still getting dressed, saying, ‘Righto, let’s get started.’ He’d call out to people in the pews and engage them in conversation all through the Mass. It was messy, but it was real. I’m not sure you could have Masses like that in every parish, but I’m glad there was this celebration in this parish. The Church needs more outposts; more places where the boundaries get tested (and sometimes breached). 


'This vision of Church was what Father Bob created and embodied in his parish, in his outreach to those in need, in his challenges to authority, and in his media appearances. It was