Homily for Funeral Mass for Fr Frank Moynihan
Statement Released: Monday, August 29, 2005
Father Frank Moynihan is one of the truly great priests of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. That opinion is my own but shaped enormously by Archbishop Frank Rush, who having lived with Frank Moynihan at Wynberg for 17 long years, described him on his departure as an “extraordinary priest”. Later when visiting the retired Archbishop at Canossa I often found Frank with him, sometimes sharing his meal, which the Archbishop generously offered to all who came. I presumed, I think correctly, that Frank must have been the Archbishop’s spiritual director. The Archbishop often talked about Fr Moynihan’s deep spirituality and never ceased to wonder that on leaving the Cathedral Frank had chosen to be appointed Parish Priest of Inala out of a desire to minister to the little ones of God’s world to whom he was particularly attracted. After his arrival the constant pastoral care that he exercised in Inala was appreciated and reciprocated. Earlier this month when I left Brisbane for the World Youth Day I realised that there was every possibility that I might not see him again and when I received the news of his death I did so with the deepest sadness and not without a certain premonition that it might happen. I offered Mass for the repose of his soul with our 120 pilgrims at Holy Spirit Church, Venusberg Bonn, last Monday, at our very last Mass of the pilgrimage. The day before I had already joined his departure from this world with the intentions of the Holy Father, when Benedict XVI had celebrated Mass for more than one million pilgrims on the outskirts of Cologne. What gave both occasions a certain emotional link with Father Frank was the presence of his grand-nephew Kieran White present with the other pilgrims and present with us once again today.
Father Frank Moynihan was born on 10th February 1929 in Ipswich. It was entirely appropriate therefore that in these last few months he should have enjoyed the enormous kindness and hospitality of Dean Peter Casey, Fr Jan, and the Ipswich people in that very same city. Educated at St Joseph’s School, Nundah and then Nudgee College, Frank Moynihan worked in the bank for a number of years until entering Banyo Seminary in 1953. In recent months Frank asked me to thank Father Morgan Howe for the influential role he had played in encouraging him to seek the priesthood. Entering the Seminary two years after Frank, I can remember above all Frank’s friendship, wisdom, wit and his starring roles in more than one Gilbert and Sullivan operetta that under the direction of the Ranger brothers did more than anything else to keep us reasonably sane in the Seminary of those days. Ordained in 1959 Fr Frank served the Archdiocese well in a variety of pastoral roles stretching from Nundah to Inala, the latter parish becoming the great love of his life. Among a multitude of accomplishments Fr Moynihan will be remembered for the restoration of St Stephen’s Cathedral in 1988 to 1989, and for the beautifully constructed, deeply spiritual, and extremely wise writings that he contributed to the Catholic Leader over 27 long years. I know for a fact that they helped people enormously. Above all however he will be remembered by those thousands upon thousands of the little ones of the world including correctional centre residents for whom he cared intensely and ministered to so generously over his 46 years of priesthood. There was a touch of genius about Frank no more evident than in his conversation. He was like a computer overloaded with information. It flooded out of him in a dozen different directions during normal conversation. One had to listen intently to follow his train of thought. I don’t think I was the only one who after a long conversation with him scratched my head and said “What was that all about?” A close friend told me he was an intensely shy person which makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable. Nevertheless, if like St Paul his own sting of the flesh was his intense shyness then he carried it lightly and I am sure it dissolved easily when he finally met his Lord and Master face to face on Sunday afternoon last. There would have been no diffidence at that moment when he saluted and was saluted by the friend he had served loyally for a lifetime.
The scripture this morning personifies the man we salute, and remember in our prayers today. He followed closely the footsteps of our shepherd God, described so intimately in the book of Ezekiel. “The poor in spirit” of the gospel of Matthew are indeed blest by God when God can raise up people like Frank Moynihan to care for them. Moreover this shy, sometimes diffident, but enormously effective pastor did so much good because he personally knew that God was on his side and that when he acted, he acted in and through the power of God.
Today as priests we rejoice and feel proud that God’s grace can work so effectively in one of our brothers. It fills us all with hope. While as people of God we appreciate the grace that such a person provides for each one of us pastorally and sacramentally. Today our deepest sympathy goes out to Molly Vlug, Peg Golding and Father Moynihan’s extended family. We also offer our deepest sympathy to his pastoral assistant Sister Desleigh and the people of Inala, whom he loved so much, as well as to the multitude of friends he accumulated over a lifetime. We thank them for their deep appreciation of and care for him over many years. We thank Dean Peter Casey, Fr Jan, and the people of Ipswich for the kindness shown to him and certainly the caring staff of the Ipswich Hospice where he spent his final moments. They could not do enough for him in his final days. This gentle man who was such a kindly leader for others for a lifetime, led always by God’s light throughout his entire lifetime, asked that today we should sing “Lead Kindly Light” as he said “until our throats hurt”. As we continue with this mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Christ that he loved so deeply and practiced so faithfully for a lifetime, let us not disappoint him. For one who gave so generously of himself his request is a small one to honour. May St Mark the patron of Inala lead him safely home and may Mary the mother of Jesus to whom he had such great devotion intercede for this faithful disciple of her son. Long may he rest in peace.