• Father Patrick Flanagan
THE Catholic Diocese of Ballarat covers virtually all of western Victoria, extending from Ballarat to Portland up through the Mallee to Mildura.
And it has been home to Father Patrick Flanagan since he was ordained as a priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, 60 years ago.
Before coming to St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Red Cliffs, the spritely Fr Flan-
agan, who celebrated his 84th birthday last week, was the parish priest at St Mary’s at Donald for 13 years, having formerly served in a variety of towns, including Bungaree and Hamilton, for many years before that.
Although ‘officially’ retired, Fr Flanagan still conducts mass every Sunday in Red Cliffs, occasionally at Irymple, and during the COVID-19 restrictions he also has led a small group that meets in the Red Cliffs rectory for weekday mass, as well as visiting people in their homes.
Fr Flanagan explained the events surrounding his arrival in Sunraysia 15 years ago.
“Father Frank Mona-
ghan unfortunately suffered a stroke and a heart attack on the same day, and while he did recover fairly well, he couldn’t come back to lead the parish – that was too much,” Fr Flanagan said.
“So they needed a priest to come here, but given Mildura’s remoteness, it was difficult to find anyone who wanted to come.
“Fortunately, I found a young priest who was prepared to come to Donald − because I wasn’t going to leave the parishioners there without a priest − and that’s how I came to be up here and that was more than 15 years ago.”
Fr Monaghan served for more than three decades, initially as an assistant priest in the Mildura parish in the 1950s, and later as parish priest of Merbein from 1974-1980, Mildura for nine years and Red Cliffs from 1993-2004.
Fr Flanagan fills in for other priests when they are on leave or away from Mildura.
“The fact that I am here, makes it easier for the Mildura priests to go away for the weekend or on holiday,” he said.
“For a time we had to look after Ouyen as well, but now it’s back to Mildura, Merbein and Red Cliffs.
“This Sunday I will be conducting the mass in Merbein. It’s not something I do that often, or in Mildura either these days.
“But, with Father Matthew here by himself, I have said to him that I will conduct the Saturday evening mass for him if, after an afternoon wedding, he would like to attend the reception.”
Fr Flanagan hopes his final move will be to Mary-
borough where he would like to retire for good … but that seems a little way off yet.
“Because there is only one priest in Mildura, I feel that I should remain here to help out,” he said.