I remember when Father Bob Maguire (1934-2023) came to Sydney in 2010. He was the after-dinner speaker at Buon Gusto Italian restaurant in Darlington, the occasion a fundraiser for the South Sydney Herald hosted by Julie McCrossin AM.
I remember the excitement – SSH founding editor, the late Trevor Davies, was in his element. Father Bob spoke about social justice and spirituality, media and politics in a way that made us laugh, think and feel that we were capable of reforming our institutions, reshaping society.
As a parish priest, community activist and media personality, Bob spoke up for workers and unions, migrants and refugees, those experiencing hunger and homelessness. His longstanding friendship with journalist John Safran bore witness to good humour and kindness – and faith as openness to the other.
“Father Bob Maguire was a brave and tireless advocate for LGBTIQA+ equality and he will be greatly missed”, says Rodney Croome, Just Equal spokesperson and former national director of Australian Marriage Equality. “He stood up for the recognition of same-sex relationships and against anti-gay and anti-trans prejudice when few other public leaders were willing to do the same.”
Deputy leader of the Liberal party in Victoria, David Southwick, remembers “a larrikin, a man of deep faith and source of endless kindness … a champion for the less fortunate – a voice for those who needed one”.
Nina Taylor, Labor MP for Albert Park, acknowledges “a formidable social justice campaigner whose devotion to the plight of the most vulnerable will be an enduring inspiration”.
Frank O’Connor is founder/patron of the Father Bob Maguire Foundation (https://donate.mycause.com.au/charity/1553). Father Bob has been an inspiration for so many people for so many years, he says, “because [his ministry] was always about those less fortunate in the world … the unloved and the unlovely”.
Religion can be overly complex and confusing. Put simply, though, it’s about imagination. Father Bob’s life and work invite me to refocus – to imagine divinity appearing in the flesh of a preacher-poet, in the sharing of food and drink (basic resources and opportunities); to imagine a diverse gathering of people transfigured as family, transformed into God’s body; to imagine the world infused with light and love.
The Rev. Andrew Collis is parish minister at South Sydney Uniting Church.