In November 2021 we were thrilled to invite back to St Mary’s College, CBC Old Collegian Fr Bob Maguire for an Alumni interview and to present Fr Bob a cheque from our College Walkathon community fundraising efforts.
Deputy Principal Shaun Lancashire chatted with Fr Bob at our Edmund Rice Campus about his time as a student at CBC, how the values he gained during this time shaped his life and career, his Foundation and what is next in his incredible work helping those in need.
Father Bob’s family along with his 5 sisters arrived from Glasgow at the end of WW1, living in East Prahran. ‘Always doing hard yakka’, he explains, ‘is where he got his working-class attitude from’.
Fr Bob’s early life was tragically met with the death of several family members, his remaining family strongly wanted him to continue his education. He describes his family as ‘poor’, with little money available, he explained they had to do a lot of walking, resulting in often wearing holes in their trousers. The family sought a scholarship to enable Fr Bob to continue his education at CBC. He recalls borrowing his brothers service coat and dying it black to use as his school blazer, he explained, the blazer would hide the holes in his trousers.
‘We did not complain it was a privilege to attend CBC’ and provided a ‘whole range of opportunities’, ‘we were fortunate in this place’ he expresses.
The CBC and St Mary’s College Latin motto is Virtus Sola Nobilitas. Fr Bob comments ‘virtue is all you need for nobility, you don’t need to be born into an entitled family, this is the title you wear with pride’.
He reflected on the days as Parish Priest at St Peter and Paul South Melbourne and prior to that in the Army. Wearing his service medals people often ask him, ‘why are you wearing those?’ Fr Bob’s response is, ‘it is a confirmation that there is more to me than meets the eye’. ‘Any boy or girl should be careful not to dismiss their history’ he proclaims.
Fr Bob describes himself as a ‘talking sock’, he tells us, ‘talking is a funny way of being serious, keep talking to work out what is the point’. He tells us he learnt this when working with actor John Saffron on the shows, Funny way of being serious and Talking in tongues. Fr Bob explains that talking in such a way that everyone knew what you were taking about and by keeping the conversation going, you eventually sort things out.
Fr Bob has been a proactive user of the media to further his social justice work. He speaks fondly of using the ‘twitterverse’ to reach people on social media. On his work with helping kids and young people, ‘we owe them an explanation and they need to find an explanation … we need reassurance, this generation needs reassurance’.
Fr Bob reflected on the day prior to the interview where he addressed a crowd on the steps of Parliament House, Fr Bob reassured the crowd:
‘we are all in this together from the far-flung suburbs of Broadmeadows to the CBD, where all kinds of people are suffering … treat everybody with respect … they are the street philosophers’.
The Fr Bob Foundation started when he left the parish precinct he explains:
‘to look after people who had nothing, could not even afford to buy groceries … provide some scholarships so children did not have to leave school’.
His inspiration for the Foundation is based on what he coined the ‘Cobberwealth’. Fr Bob elaborates about the story of, ‘a soldier carrying a bloke over his shoulder and from the battlefield, a voice comes from behind … “don’t forget me cobber” so the soldier went back and slung the other bloke over his other shoulder, that is what it is all about’. He comments on ‘the spirituality or philosophy that suits secular humanism’ that he challenges, ‘to be more rigorous’ and states he is:
‘a great believer that the secular is also sacred’.
Fr Bob spoke about his new venture of a Camel Farm near Ararat, providing therapies and sense of wellbeing experiences with the camels.
He told us, it’s exciting and interesting and he was grateful to visit St Mary’s College to talk about his extended history with the College.
We continue our commitment to social justice at St Mary's College and supporting Melbourne's marginalized through organisations such as the Fr Bob Foundation.
Watch the interview