Father Bob Maguire is a living testament of community spirit and comradeship.
At the ripe and wonderful age of 86, he is tenacious, outspoken, and has an irrepressible passion for supporting the “unloved and unlovely”.
Suffice to say, he’s a funny, fatherly figure that looks out for everybody and never leaves anyone behind.
Father Bob joined the MePACS service in 2012, when he was diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), a neurological disorder which targets the body’s nervous system.
“I was struck with this condition where I experienced numbness and weakness in my arms and legs, which affected my balance and mobility. Once you get used to being immobile, you do find yourself stuck in a bit of a negative mindset, but you just have to tell yourself to keep going, get stronger and walk again.”
“I had regular check-ups at my hospital and after a while they said, ‘listen sport, you need to start thinking about your safety at home.’ I have been with MePACS ever since.”
After “miraculous” treatment, he got back on his feet and continued to champion his cause of community support.
“Compassion, care, concern, common sense and communication. That’s what makes a community and that’s what MePACS is to me and many other senior Australians like myself. I’m very grateful for their vigilance and commitment to my safety every year.”
Now with the MePACS home and mobile alarm, Father Bob can continue his work with the peace of mind that our response team is available 24/7 to give emergency assistance, whether he is at home or out and about with the Father Bob Foundation.
“It’s just the reassurance that I have someone looking out for me all the time. The lovely MePACS people ring me up and ask how I’m going every month when I test my pendant, which is a great connection to make for my health, and I tell them I’m doing alright. I appreciate how they are very dedicated to ensuring my security every day.”
“People say I should be in care at my age and I say I am – I’m in the care of MePACS.”
All for one and one for all
One could assume that the retired priest and ‘lovable larrikin’ is a Beatles fan. He cheerily sings ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘Let it Be’ throughout our conversation and he certainly shares their sentiments about the need to ‘Come Together’.
“I think we need to connect with each other within a ‘Cobberwealth’ you see. The soldiers in World War I, they called each other ‘cobber’ and supported each other tirelessly through battle. We need to keep the same concept in that no one gets left behind.”
“We are here to be a compassionate neighbourhood with open arms. We’ve got to band together, sit down and talk about what needs to be done to help everyone.”
Five years later, he joined the Australian Army Reserve and became a lieutenant colonel and commanding officer of the Character Training Unit for young officers during the Vietnam War era.
From 1973 to 2012, he served his parish of Saints Peter and Paul’s Church in South Melbourne while advocating and supporting young people on the streets, developing initiatives to give food and temporary accommodation to those experiencing homelessness.
A life well-lived, caring for others
In 1989, Father Bob received an Order of Australia Medal for his support of homeless youth through the Open Family Foundation, and continues to devote his time to local communities and people from all walks of life who need a little helping hand from the Father Bob Foundation today.
The well-known charity wears many hats. They work with their own staff and other like-minded organisations to deliver hot and nutritious meals with a side of good conversation, visit primary schools to provide STEM education and above all, strive to make the lives of others ‘easier, safer and more fulfilling’, especially those of young kids.
Quite surprisingly, they even have a camel sanctuary in Ararat as a place of education and rehabilitation for the underprivileged.
Father Bob has been the person to turn to for many who are seeking shelter and support for more than 50 years, and his advice rings true for checking in with friends and family.
“Take the time to call someone and ask how they’re doing. It only takes a few minutes but it will do so much good for the both of you. You could even send a letter in the mail or organise a video chat – putting in the effort to let people know you care about them is so important.”
Maintaining his message of care and compassion, Father Bob has an enduring impact on everyone that he meets. It’s clear that he is just one of those people that makes the world a better place, simply by being himself.