True Christian defied Church to help the poor

FATHER BOB: Father Bob Maguire will bring his film to Gympie’s Heart of Gold International Film Festival.
FATHER BOB: Father Bob Maguire will bring his film to Gympie’s Heart of Gold International Film Festival. Contributed

FATHER Bob Maguire hopes that viewers watching In Bob We Trust at this year's Heart of Gold film festival, in Gympie on October 11, will be inspired to reach out and help the poor and lonely in their own communities.

"The film recorded this experiment where we, the Father Bob Foundation, were creating a faith community that had no borders," Father Bob said.

"The film is a training resource for other organisations to create a pit stop, if you like, for the neighbourhood's disadvantaged to access things like food, wi-fi, company and assistance.

"But it is also a record of the conflict I was having with the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and the film records that terrible interruption to our efforts.

"The film is a good example of what happens and what to do when your strongest opposition attempts to interfere with your efforts to reach out and help others."

Late in 2009 Father Bob, who had been South Melbourne's parish priest of Saints Peter and Paul church since 1973, was invited to retire by the Archbishop of the Melbourne Diocese, Denis Hart.

But Father Bob was not prepared to retire and openly and doggedly contested the archbishop's invitation.

He negotiated a two-year reprieve.

"He wanted us off the property, but in my opinion we were the guardians of the grounds and that beautiful 150-year-old church, and it was my mission to make it accessible to everyone," he said.

Father Bob encourages anyone who has a desire to help their community to begin, to make a start - even if it is the overgrown corner of the backyard.

"The foundation had its beginnings on empty and abandoned basketball courts and at the back door of the presbytery kitchen," he said.

When Father Bob became the parish priest he discovered quickly that his neighbourhood had many disadvantaged and forgotten, so he made it his mission to support them.

In 1978 the parish, with Father Bob at the helm, established Open Day, which helped South Melbourne's street kids.

And in 1989 the parish established the Emerald Hill Mission, where the presbytery's kitchen fed the poor and hungry.

In 2003 he established the Father Bob Foundation from his parish office, but after being forcibly removed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in February 2012, new headquarters were built.

Today the foundation is thriving.

In Bob We Trust is the Heart of Gold's feature presentation and will screen on Saturday, October 11, from 3pm at the Heritage Theatre in Gympie.

It was written and directed by award-winning Lyn-Maree Milburn.

Earlybird tickets to the four-day festival are on sale until tomorrow.

Gympie Times

Topics:  gympie heart of gold film festival religion

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