Crowds gathered at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral on Friday, May 5 to bid farewell and honour the life and legacy of Father Bob Maguire, who mourners described as “an inspiration to so many people”.
Father Bob sadly passed away at the age of 88 on Wednesday, April 19.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who was present at the event, delivered a poignant tribute to Father Bob on behalf of the people of Victoria.
“Father Bob understood intrinsically that you had to go to where the people are and where the need is greatest,” Andrews said.
“His were the unloved and the unlovely, as he put it, those without a voice and without a home.
“Anyone who turned up on his doorstep got whatever they needed in that moment. Bob always knew exactly what people needed even when they might not have known themselves.”
Father Bob’s niece Peta Knights spoke of her uncle’s difficult childhood and that despite some setbacks earlier in life, “his capacity for love and his empathy in times of trouble knew no bounds”.
“Family life was hard for the Maguires. It was a life dominated by Bob’s alcoholic father with all the consequent deprivations above and over those of the era,” she said.
“Tragically, Bob lost both his parents and his beloved sister Kathleen by the age of 15. I can’t imagine the pain those losses caused a young boy but perhaps they made him into the man he became. The one that we all loved.
“Bob was very generous with his time despite the fact he was such a busy man. Over the years he performed 16 family weddings, countless baptisms and four funerals.”
Born September 14, 1934, Father Bob began his training for the priesthood in 1953 at Corpus Christi College when he was 18 years old.
He worked as a beekeeper during his time with the college which he described as “one of the finest periods” of his life. He would later be ordained in July 1960 at the age of 25.
From there Maguire joined the Australian Army Reserve in 1965 and served as a lieutenant colonel during the Vietnam War era.
From 1973 to 2012, Maguire served as parish priest of St. Peter and Paul’s Church in South Melbourne.
In the mid-1980s, Father Bob founded Open Family Australia, a charity that extends aid to the underprivileged and homeless youth of Melbourne.
In 2003, the Father Bob Maguire Foundation was established with the purpose of consolidating all of Father Bob’s social investments under a unified Board of Governance. The Foundation’s “Bob Squad” is a group of volunteers that spearheads fundraising and welfare initiatives, driven by Maguire’s bold and transformative vision for social justice.
In addition to his work with the church, Father Bob was a prominent radio host on Melbourne’s 3AW and also made guest appearances on various media platforms.
In collaboration with satirist and documentarian John Safran, he appeared on the SBS television program John Safran vs God.
Later, from November 2005 to January 2006, Father Bob co-hosted Speaking in Tongues on SBS television with Safran. Additionally, he co-hosted the Australian national youth radio station Triple J’s Sunday Night Safran.
In October 2009, he began serving as a judge for the public speaking contest Strictly Speaking, along with fellow judges Jean Kittson and host Andrew Hansen, which aired in late 2010.
Affectionately known as the “people’s priest”, Father Bob was widely known for his remarkable work in advocating for social justice and aiding the underprivileged which made him a revered and respected figure both in Australia and beyond.