Eulogy given by Marcelle Mogg (Fr Kevin’s niece) at his funeral on 7 March 2022 and gratefully reproduced with the author’s permission
Good morning and thank you for your presence here today and online. While I offer this eulogy on behalf of our family, I know that any number of you could stand in my place, and speak with love, affection and admiration for Kevin and what his friendship has meant to you.
I am indebted to all who have written about Kevin and his many achievements, particularly to Anne Tuohey – the author of Kevin’s collection of reminiscences An Enabling Life. So, I wish to pay deserved credit to Anne and others who have contacted me for their assistance with the facts, and please know that I take full responsibility for any errors herein.
Fr Mogg, Fr Kevin, Kev, Moggy and even, when he was out of earshot, The Rev Kev.
To try and do justice to Kevin Mogg, and all that he realised in nearly 90 years, including over 65 years of ministry, is a near impossible task. So, I offer these observations as a tribute to him on behalf of a family that loved him through it all, including the periodic occasions when we wanted to throttle him.
First, the facts. Kevin was born the second of three sons to Tom and Doris Mogg (nee McInerney) on 23 April 1932. Three years younger than eldest brother Les, and three years older than youngest brother Russell, Kevin and his family grew up in inner Melbourne, living for a time on Royal Parade opposite Princes Park, and then in what became the family home on Melville Road, Pascoe Vale.
The extended Mogg and McInerney clans were close knit, with families often trekking across Melbourne for visits and celebrations. The patterns of Kevin’s later life were forged early.
Br Charles Mogg, uncle to Les, Kevin and Russell, was a significant influence in the lives of all three boys. Br Mogg, Charlie to the family, was a loved and admired Christian Brother. A deeply pastoral man, Br Mogg was a renowned educator, gifted storyteller, legendary fundraiser and had an innate ability to co-opt those around him into serving others in need. Does that description sound familiar? While Kevin chose the path of priesthood rather than that of a Christian Brother, Uncle Charlie remained an inspiration, confidante, and mentor to Kevin, serving as a model for a young man keen to pursue a life of faith and service.
Kevin was blessed in life with a keen intellect, athletic ability, exceptional energy and drive, and from his loving parents – the gift of faith. He relished his years at school, succeeding academically, in sport and in forging friendships that lasted a lifetime. His years at St Pat’s Ballarat confirmed his desire to be a priest, and on 1 March 1949 he entered the Seminary at Corpus Christi College, Werribee, a month prior to his 17th birthday.
While Kevin thrived in the company of his fellow seminarians, and enthusiastically pursued his studies and opportunities to develop his sporting abilities, the strict seminary rules did not always sit easily.
At a time when they were still only courting, my father Russell would drive down to Werribee to visit Kevin, accompanied by my mum Margaret. While the family visit was welcome, the opportunity to read the contraband Sporting Globe smuggled in by Dad was equally well received. Kevin would also suggest they all go on a drive together, which invariably included a stop to buy cigarettes. But in fairness to both Kevin and Dad, Kevin was, in every other respect, a diligent seminarian, and Dad – thankfully – took Mum on many more romantic dates.
Kevin was ordained as a priest for the Archdiocese of Melbourne on 22nd July 1956 at the age of 24. The following day he celebrated his first Mass at the family parish of St Fidelis, Moreland lovingly supported by his parents, extended family and the many friends made through the parish and earlier school days at St Fidelis, and St Ambrose, Brunswick.
One of the most formative and enjoyable periods in Kevin’s life came with his appointment as Curate to Fr George Maher in the parish of St Pius X, West Heidelberg. In these post war years, the Australian population surged through immigration and a baby boom, leading to a significant housing shortage. The recently vacated Olympic Village at West Heidelberg provided homes for many families through Victoria’s Housing Commission. The burgeoning parish under the exemplary leadership of Fr Maher was a great setting for Kevin to consolidate his training as a priest, pastor and guide to the families of the parish and broader community, especially to the many young people he encountered.
Drawing on his love for sport, and with the blessing of Fr Maher, Kevin coached the young men of the parish in the West Heidelberg Football Team to compete as part of the YCW competition. The Young Christian Workers movement, following the “See, Judge and Act” model of Joseph Cardijn, provided a great platform for Kevin to engage with the young people of the parish, supporting their faith life, and helping to develop their skills of leadership and service to others. So many of these young people became life-long friends to Kevin, a priest only a few years older than themselves, and like them, finding his way in life.
In 1964, Kevin became the first full-time Catholic Youth Chaplain appointed by the Victoria’s Social Welfare Branch. While based at the Turana Boys’ Home, Kevin’s role saw him engage with the children and young people in the care of the State at Parkville, Ballarat, Malmsbury and at Winlaton, Nunwading, where the extraordinary Loreto Sr Toni Matha IBVM was working in the pastoral support of young girls. Sr Toni and Fr Kevin were a dynamic force for good in the lives of so many young people, helping them and their families to rebuild relationships, and develop their strengths, fostering hope for their futures in the process. While serving as Chaplains, Sr Toni and Fr Kevin created interdisciplinary teams collaborating closely with the psychologists, social workers and youth workers of the centres. They recognised that the lives of the young people in their care could not be compartmentalised into functional tasks, nor separated from the lives of their family and wider social circles.
Kevin would often bring some of his young charges from Turana to our family home in Moonee Ponds to join us for dinner. Similarly, Kevin drew on the relationships formed with parishioners at West Heidelberg to help expand the social worlds and connections of the young women and men living at Turana and Winlaton, sharing with them other experiences of family life, work, and community. Kevin followed many of the young men and women he met at Turana and Winlaton through the course of their lives, continuing to assist them with hampers at Christmas to share with their children, and providing money when things were tight. Kevin always responded to them with a warm welcome and a readiness to listen. They retained a very special place in his heart throughout his life.
Although Kevin was only 37 at the time, Cardinal Knox recognised a gifted priest with a sharp intellect, a love of learning, and a skilled community builder with a great capacity for engaging young people. The Cardinal identified traits in Kevin well suited to the task of developing a new model for a seminary and theological college that would support the Archdiocese as it embraced the renewal occasioned by the Second Vatican Council.
1970 saw Kevin travel to Rome, the UK and Chicago to pursue studies in preparation for his role as Rector at Corpus Christi College, undertaking a Master of Arts in Psychology, with a focus on Counselling, building on earlier studies in Criminology at the University of Melbourne and studies undertaken during his seminary years. Kevin returned to Australia, joining the staff at the Seminary, then located at Glen Waverley, with Rector, Fr John Prendiville SJ.
In 1972, Kevin took up his role as Rector of Corpus Christi College, Clayton, the first Diocesan priest to serve in the role. Kevin drew deeply on the support of an exceptional staff that included Jesuit and Diocesan priests, and the appointment of lay women and men. Kevin’s gratitude and admiration for the scholarship and teaching of the Jesuits was instrumental in shaping his own approach to seminary training and the development of the Catholic Theological College.
While the vision Kevin nurtured for the seminary and theological colleges, as places where lay people and seminarians might study and build up the Church together reflected the vision and hopes articulated in the Second Vatican Council, Kevin and his staff faced strong and vocal opposition from numerous quarters, including several Bishops. But with the support of Cardinal Knox and Bishop Eric d’Arcy he was able to pursue a model for formation and education that better equipped seminarians to be effective priests and pastors to their people. Many of the lay people who studied at that time, and subsequently, at Catholic Theological College continue to guide, teach and play their part in serving the Church in Melbourne and across Australia.
Kevin’s appointment to Holy Spirit Parish here in North Ringwood in 1979 came at a time of significant change for a young parish, which had been established only seven years previously. With a rapidly growing population but few financial resources, Kevin was an ideal appointment given his ability to draw people together in working to build a community in which all people are made welcome. Building on the strong, community-centred foundations laid by Fr Jim Nippard, Holy Spirit Parish thrived under the care of Kevin and the exceptional service and leadership of many talented and generous parishioners, creating an innovative, vibrant and flourishing community.
Further to his role as Parish Priest at Holy Spirit, Kevin was also appointed as the first Episcopal Vicar for Social Welfare for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, recognising the Church’s extensive involvement in social services ministry in Victoria, in addition to its work in education, health, and aged care.
Through Kevin’s leadership and that of Sr Toni Matha, as the inaugural Executive Officer, Catholic Social Services Victoria was established in 1980 to support the many social services ministries conducted by Religious Congregations and Diocesan agencies across the community. Through its work over the past 40 years, CSSV has served as an effective voice and policy leader on behalf of the Church in Victoria in its advocacy for people living in poverty, facing family separation and violence, experiencing homelessness, imprisonment, addiction, and social isolation.
The creation of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Melbourne under the leadership of Vicki Walker (Clarke), with the support of CSSV, represented a significant milestone for the Church as it sought to better recognise and respect the culture, gifts and spirit of Australia’s First Nations peoples.
It is no exaggeration to suggest that without the establishment of CSSV, and the support it fostered between agencies, the Church’s social ministries in Victoria would have been hollowed out by the major changes in public policy and funding they have faced since 1980. The advocacy and influence that CSSV realised among political leaders of all stripes, and the profile it has built for the Church’s social ministries among the parishes of the Archdiocese, has been exceptional. Particularly when we acknowledge the comparatively well resourced ministries of education and health care, CSSV has certainly punched above its weight.
Initially appointed for three years, Kevin served as EV for Social Welfare (later Social Services) for 27 years. Subsequent appointments to the role include (the now) Bishop Vincent Long OFM and our current VG Fr Joe Caddy – the company that Kevin keeps has never been too shabby.
Again, it is important to acknowledge, as Kevin would rightly insist, the many people who shared his commitment and energy to the task of building up the community of God’s people, especially those made poor and vulnerable. CSSV has been blessed with exceptional people through its history, at Staff, Executive and Board level, and it is wonderful to see this continue today.
Through his role as EV for Social Welfare, Kevin also served in social services advocacy and policy at a national level through the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council for 15 years. The Council enabled the Catholic Church to have a significant voice in national social policy settings and initiatives including the setting of welfare payments, reforms in family law and family support services, disability, employment and housing services, and services for refugees and asylum seekers. Moreover, through the work of the Council, the Church itself – Bishops, Priests, Religious and lay alike – came to better understand its mission to serve people made vulnerable in our community, and the continuing need to challenge those policies and structures that isolate and diminish the lives of individuals and families.
Let me take a moment at this point to observe that for all of the extraordinary achievements in his life, and the exceptional legacy he leaves for us to continue, Kevin was not perfect. Like each of us, Kevin’s considerable gifts could also be his vulnerabilities. His extraordinary determination and focus might manifest as stubbornness, his eagerness to resolve an issue present as impatience, and his strongly held convictions as an unwillingness to listen. Kevin endeavoured to ensure that any hurt caused led to a reconciliation and that he learned his lessons along the way, as we all must.
I would suggest that part of his struggle was that the allegedly more mundane aspects of life, held little interest for him. Things like balancing work, family and parish commitments, spring to mind. Even cleaning, let alone servicing his car, planning for retirement, and – at one point – lodging his tax return. I recall the time when Dad (working in insurance) and Uncle Les (an accountant) had a meltdown when they discovered that Kevin had never lodged a tax return. Uncle Les and Dad tried to persuade Kevin of the seriousness of the issue at hand. Kevin was uninterested, dismissing what he saw as an overreaction to the matter on the part of his brothers. I don’t know how Uncle Les and Dad resolved the matter with the ATO but given that Kevin remained on the right side of Prison Ministry, I can only assume that they were successful.
Sport was more than a past-time for Kevin. His love of tennis, squash, football, horse racing and athletics served as opportunities to bring people together, make new friends, catch up with old ones, and to mix with a wide range of people across the community. Kevin would readily listen to a hot tip from any mug punter – recognising a fellow traveller – and be equally at ease with those in the Committee Room at Flemington. In preparing this eulogy, I was amazed to discover that Kevin had been invited by the VRC to speak at the public memorial for legendary horse trainer Bart Cummings in 2015.
On reflection I should not have been surprised as Kevin had a knack for turning up in the most exclusive places (other than the Winner’s Circle that is!). Kevin loved to travel, and among many highlights were trips to Royal Ascot to watch the Derby, resplendent in a rented morning suit with top hat and tails, and a visit to Wimbledon as a guest of Pat Cash.
Among Kevin’s many gifts was the ability to recognise talents in people that they did not always see in themselves. What often appeared at first blush as an impossible request, became an experience for many people of realising previously unrecognised abilities and talents. This is a refrain I have heard so often over the years from those who have worked and volunteered alongside Kevin. And invariably, these talents were put to work in the service of people in need.
There were many things that sustained and nurtured Kevin through the years: his family and friends, his love for the people he served, his role as an advocate for a more just and equitable community, his love of liturgy, and his abiding love of the Church, even on those occasions when it must have felt as though that love was not reciprocated.
Kevin had that all too rare ability to see his whole life as a blessing: the struggles and consolations alike, and to look always for the signs of the Holy Spirit at work in the world and in him.
In 2002, Kevin was appointed as Parish Priest to St Macartan’s Mornington. While initially anxious to leave the known and loved community of Holy Spirit that had supported him so generously for 23 years, Kevin was typically blessed to be welcomed by the wonderful community at St Macartan’s. New friendships were quickly formed – while still retaining all of the old ones – and the lessons acquired through his leadership at North Ringwood, West Heidelberg and through CSSV were utilised in the service of the Mornington Community. Although he was 70 at the time of his appointment to St Macartan’s this was no “transition to retirement” gig. Kevin again threw himself into the work of the parish and the lives of its parishioners with great enthusiasm and commitment. And again, the people of the parish met and exceeded his efforts in return.
Many of Kevin’s abiding beliefs in life, continued through to recent times, including, of course, that he remained “6 foot and bullet proof”, with the same energy, ability and focus in his 80s that he had at 17, and woe betide anyone who doubted it.
Retiring to take up bowls was never in the mix for Kevin who, following his 10 years at St Macartan’s, returned to Prison Ministry and served as a Supply Priest for the Diocese. Kevin continued to be galvanised by all of the work still to be done in building a more just and equitable society, keen to respond to the new challenges emerging across society and the Church, including the heartbreaking reality of the extent of sexual abuse within the Church he so loved.
While well into his 80s Kevin continued to sit on the Board of CSSV, to join in classes at Catholic Theological College, to read widely, and to visit his many friends and family across Melbourne and Victoria. His determination may have been inexhaustible but sadly his body was not. While dementia played out in its usual and cruel style, Kevin’s capacity to connect with those he loved, to charm all around him, and to seize any opportunity to get to the TAB, or out for dinner with friends, remained.
I sat with Kevin on the evening before he died. And even with his rapidly failing health and the consequent limitations on his ability to communicate, Kevin still left me in no doubt as to who was in charge. Be assured that it wasn’t me!
In 1965, as Pope Paul VI proclaimed the historic document of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, his words resounded in the hearts of many, not the least of which was a young priest on the other side of the world in Melbourne working as a Chaplain with teenagers in the juvenile justice and care systems.
In praying for Kevin as death drew near, the wonderful Pastoral Care team at St Catherine’s neatly summed up the life, faith and ministry of Fr Kevin Mogg using the words of Pope Paul VI:
GAUDIUM ET SPES
PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS, POPE PAUL VI
ON DECEMBER 7, 1965
The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the [women and] men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.
Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.
Together with a lifelong love of Christ and his commitment to Scripture, to the Church and its tradition of caring for those pushed to the margins, this passage provided a template for the pastoral model that Kevin would follow throughout his life: to gather up all who were isolated, broken or imprisoned, bringing to them the tender mercy and love of Christ.
And so to you Kevin, as we give thanks for you, and the love, laughter, leadership and service you so generously shared, we pray in confidence that Jesus now welcomes you with the words from Matthew’s Gospel:
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you visited me.
‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Vale Kevin.