Wednesday 9 May 2012
By Denis Fitzgerald
Executive Director, Catholic Social Services Victoria
Kairos Catholic Journal, Vol 23, issue 8
In 1980, Fr Kevin Mogg was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Social Services by Archbishop Frank Little, and thus began the formal work that developed over time into Catholic Social Services Victoria.
This contribution by Fr Kevin has been celebrated on several occasions, and in 2004 Fr Kevin was made a Member of the Order of Australia 'for service to the community, particularly as the founder of an integrated welfare delivery agency, Catholic Social Services Victoria, and as a prison chaplain'.
But this is only one part of Fr Kevin's contribution to the people of Victoria. The broader picture was fleshed out during the course of a celebration on Sunday 22 April, when about 2000 people gathered at Padua College, Mornington, to celebrate his 80th birthday and to farewell him from St Macartan's, Mornington.
It was a joyful gathering—a celebration of the Eucharist and of Fr Kevin's ministries over the decades since his ordination in 1956.
The gathering itself spoke of this celebration: there was a bevy of fellow priests, led by Bishop Hilton Deakin; representatives from other churches; organisers and congregation from St Macartan's; and many visitors from Fr Kevin's earlier parishes of St Pius X in West Heidelberg, and Holy Spirit in North Ringwood. There were family members and friends from Catholic Social Services and beyond. It was generous of St Macartan's people to share the day with the rest of us.
The scripture readings, the hymns, the homily and, after Mass, the various speeches, all told the same story: of a priest dedicated to the loving care of his people, and, at the same time, to the building of a more just society.
The scripture readings during Mass laid out the foundations of Fr Kevin's faith in God and the call to service that is so much a part of that faith.
The image of the good shepherd was adopted by Christ in John's Gospel—"I lay down my life for my sheep"—and, in the Prophet Ezekiel where the shepherd/Lord was active in seeking out those in need: "The lost I will rescue and heal their wounds."
And the reading from the First Letter of John looked at these teachings from another perspective: if anyone is well-off in worldly possessions and sees his brother in need but closes his heart to him, how can the love of God remain in him?
The specially chosen hymns also linked the love of God for us with the inspiration and strength that enables us to reach beyond ourselves in loving others. In the context of the celebration and Fr Kevin, the words came alive:
"Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts. Shine in your church gathered today."
"You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains ... to be more than I can be."
"Take of my bread and eat, drink my new wine. Take of my life and live, branch of my vine ... share with our people, that love has its will."
In every part of Fr Kevin's ministry we see this faith and love in action. Speaker after speaker recalled his vision of an energised parish community; his vision of a broader Catholic community of service; and the personal qualities that enabled Fr Kevin to reach the hearts and activate the leadership of his parishioners, and of Catholic Social Services.
As people enjoyed St Macartan's hospitality after the formalities, many spoke of Fr Kevin's enabling grace that allowed them to find qualities of leadership they may not have otherwise known they had. Echoing the words of the hymn, through Fr Kevin, they became more than they thought they could be.
Fr Kevin had the last word. He reflected on the privileges of the priesthood and its close relationship to the lives of others.
The darkness of sexual abuse and of its cover-up was acknowledged during the afternoon. But Fr Kevin's conclusion was on the potential for goodness, as priests in general sought to live out the teachings of Christ in the Beatitudes. In his own case, he reflected that this effort had been underpinned by the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, being part of a wonderful set of communities, and the great professional support he had received, particularly from women and his many close friends.
Fr Kevin: ad multos annos.
Fr Kevin Mogg
Photos supplied by St Macartan's Parish.