Australia is in mourning following the death of social justice campaigner and beloved priest Father Bob at the age of 88 on Wednesday, April 19.
Affectionately known as the “people’s priest”, Father Bob Maguire 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.
His family revealed that his “physical and mental health had been deteriorating for some time” while announcing his passing in a statement. Despite his poor health, his family stated that “his preference was always to help others rather than consider his own situation”.
“Fr Bob was not just a much loved family member but was loved by all Australians for what he stood for. He has fought bravely for the underprivileged and homeless all his life. He represented the highest of principles, and he fought to actively live those principles,” the statement read.
“Despite his high profile in the media, he was always on the job, especially for the disadvantaged families and individuals for whom he had great love and compassion. He wanted nobody to be left behind and always saw and believed in the good in people, but he knew that there were many whom he referred to as the unloved and unlovely. These were his real passion.
“The last few months have been very difficult for both the family and for those around Fr Bob as we managed his declining health. We thank all the medical staff who have attended him in recent months and express our gratitude to them for their work and devotion.
“We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time.
“The family will make appropriate funeral arrangements in due course.”
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.
The news of Father Bob’s passing triggered an overwhelming expression of sorrow from both the general public and high-profile figures alike. Numerous individuals lauded him for his unwavering commitment to advancing social justice and promoting the welfare of the community.
With the passing of Father Bob, we have lost a great Australian.
An irrepressibly cheerful champion for all those battling disadvantage, he dedicated his life to brightening the lives of those most in need. pic.twitter.com/w9wQFQVkTk
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) April 19, 2023
Father Bob was a man of compassion and great humour.
He lived out the true message of his faith every day of his life. And he always did it with a grin on his face and a laugh on his lips.
His memory will live on in the fight for a more just and caring world.
— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) April 19, 2023
The passing of Father Bob is incredibly sad news.
I first met him back in 1983. He would poke fun at those in power but he never stopped fighting for those without it.
God Bless, Father Bob. I’m sure heaven has its gates wide open for you, but boy are they are in for a ride. pic.twitter.com/Wt8fCqHFHC
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) April 19, 2023
Vale #FatherBob. A favourite in my family and a special favourite with my late Mum. RIP old digger. I hope your rewards are sweet. https://t.co/2EPy5Hren3
— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) April 19, 2023
Our nation has just lost a hero.
The people’s priest.
A social justice warrior.
And a man who dedicated his life to faith and standing up for those most vulnerable.
Vale Father Bob Maguire. pic.twitter.com/85v02MeJJI
— Chris Minns (@ChrisMinnsMP) April 19, 2023
Vale, Father Bob.
A ferocious advocate for justice, refugees, and the vulnerable.
Your generosity & humour will be missed, comrade. pic.twitter.com/ZXL4qP4NpI
— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) April 19, 2023
I asked Father Bob if he would marry us in his church even though we were from different faiths. Quick as a flash he said, “don’t worry about all that, if you truly love each other, then I will do the deed”. 20 years later we are still going strong! Thanks again Father Bob. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/t6oSGFvS7K
— Nicholas Reece (@Nicholas_Reece) April 19, 2023
Vale @FatherBob and thank you for everything that you have done. Always the trailblazer and fighter for social justice
May the memory of your generosity and work continue to inspire people pic.twitter.com/9KRqUNF2rY
— MojoTheKelpie (@MojoTheKelpie) April 19, 2023