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An Enabling Life: Father Kevin Mogg.

An Enabling Life: Father Kevin Mogg (a collection of reminiscences)

Author: Anne Tuohey (researcher, interviewer)

Publisher: The Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9871461-3-7

Paperback, 136 pages

Price: $25 (through Catholic Care)

Even God Smiled: The Strife and Chimes of Kev the Rev

Author: Kevin Burke

Publisher: David Lovell Publishing, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-86355-185-4

Paperback, 392 pages (plus 30 pages of photos)

Price: $40 (including postage, from the author, PO Box 310, Eltham, Vic. 3095)

Accounts of the lives of two veteran and well known Melbourne diocesan priests named Kevin appeared shortly before this edition of the Journal went to press. The older of the two, Father Kevin Mogg, ordained in 1956 and now in his late 80s, is in retirement after a long ministry full of laudable achievements. Father Kevin Burke, ordained in 1970 and aged 75, claims to have worked in 16 parishes, visited over 12,000 homes, had about 100 forthright letters published in newspapers and written numerous articles for the Council of Priests' journal, The Swag. Since 2008 he has been the active parish priest of Eltham. There and elsewhere he has been known for being outspoken and for applying his understanding of the message of Vatican II to the running of a parish.

Kevin Mogg was the first non-Jesuit to become the Rector of the main Victorian seminary for diocesan clergy, Corpus Christi College. The appointment came from Melbourne's Archbishop, Cardinal James Knox, who had decided to sell the seminary's separated campuses at Werribee and Glen Waverley and to re-unite the two faculties in a new building at Clayton, near Monash University. Knox knew of Mogg's outstanding work since ordination with the young in West Heidelberg, as a community builder and in juvenile justice. The Cardinal also supported the challenge his appointee faced in adapting seminary life to changes emerging from the Council, at a time when a few other bishops were reluctant to accept some of these developments.

After seven years as Rector, Kevin Mogg returned to parish life as pastor for 23 years at North Ringwood and a decade at Mornington. For much of that period as a popular parish priest he was also the Archdiocese's Episcopal Vicar for Social Welfare and the Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria, which he founded. His successor as Episcopal Vicar, Father Joseph Caddy, whom he had encouraged to consider becoming a priest, says in his Introduction to the book that Kevin "is an expert at spotting talent, encouraging initiative and providing support". As the book's title asserts, he has led "an enabling life".

The story of that life is well told by one of his former colleagues in Social Services, Anne Tuohey, whose research was accompanied by interviews with her subject, one fruit of which is a summary of Mogg's insightful views on the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission. Added to Anne Tuohey's story are short contributions from five of his other many friends and associates.

The author of the second book, Father Kevin Burke, is one of Kevin Mogg's good friends--and one of his occasional punting collaborators. Burke's reminiscences fill many more pages than his friend's, including a host of details about the autobiographer's life and activities as a priest serving in so many parishes, first as an assistant priest (or "curate" in the old terminology) and then for over 30 years as a parish priest, principally for 13 years in the relatively small and quiet Gladstone suburb and, since 2008, in the larger and more animated Eltham parish. There he remains, having long ago survived the turbulence of his first year and where today he is clearly much appreciated by many, even if a few regard some of his actions as lovable eccentricities. He in turn pays tribute to Eltham's "patient and understanding people" with their "love, energy and faith commitment".

It was especially in his Chadstone years, but also later to a degree, that the writer sometimes saw a need to challenge authorities, above all Archbishops Pell and Hart, with Vicar General Monsignor (later Bishop) Les Tomlinson, on various issues, some personal and others theological. His account of these episodes in his book's Part Four ("Keeping Them Honest") occupies nearly 100 pages. He suspects with some reason that this is disproportionate--interesting and revealing as much of it is.

Different in character and style from his friend Kevin Mogg, Burke thinks that, as a priest for nearly 50 years, he has gained much self-knowledge. He considers himself to be a "slow learner", a "sweater and plodder" who "wears his heart on his sleeve" and is "passionate" about his convictions. More generous assessments come from well-known friends and admirers like Bishop Pat Power, his seminary classmate the ex-priest and renowned journalist Paul Bongiorno, and the maverick Father Bob Maguire. Power calls him "a big-hearted pastor in the mould of Pope Francis". To Bongiorno he is "a son of Vatican II". And Maguire sees him as "a poet as well as a prophet" and as "gold returned to Eltham". Kevin Burke offers us in advance his own epitaph, which includes his book's whimsical title: "He had a go; We had a laugh; Even God Smiled".

Another description of Kevin Burke's memoir can be applied to Kevin Mogg's as well. Both give a praiseworthy picture of "what it is to be a priest". This needs to be better understood and appreciated in these sad and difficult days for the Church's much maligned shepherds and their sheep.

Notes by Michael Costigan (*)

(*) Michael Costigan was Associate Editor of the Archdiocesan paper The Advocate.
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Title Annotation:BOOK NOTES; Even God Smiled: The Strife and Chimes of Kev the Rev
Author:Costigan, Michael
Publication:Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2018
Words:926
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