Funeral Mass of Father Robert Francis Coghlan Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at St Mary’s Basilica, Geelong

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered to farewell the soul of a dedicated and generous priest, Father Robert Francis Coghlan, who died at St John of God Hospital, nine days before his eightieth birthday, on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. He was already in the 80th year of his age and the 53rd year of his priesthood, at that time resident at Rice Village here in Geelong where he was born and nurtured. Together with his sister Norma, his niece Anne and his family, we priests and people of the Archdiocese pay tribute to Father Bob's gentle, compassionate use of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in service of God's people, despite indifferent health at times in later life.

We remember him with esteem as we pray for the repose of his soul, that he will now live in the light of the resurrection where seeing Jesus as he is, he will enjoy the reward of his labours for all eternity.

As we pray for Father Bob Coghlan, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we come to ponder the mystery of Our Lord's death and resurrection because it promises new and eternal life. Jesus invites us, with Father Bob, to enter the mystery of the Eucharist, and in this Eucharist to see Jesus face to face. Through our prayers and sacrifices, we bring the gentle and compassionate, priestly soul of Father Bob Coghlan to the Lord whom he loved and to whom he sought to bring the people he served so well in his fifty two years of priesthood.

Bob was born on 2 April 1938 here in Geelong West, and attended St Patrick's Primary School and St Joseph's College Newtown before going to Corpus Christi to study for the priesthood. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Simonds in the Cathedral on 24 July 1965. Bob was a dedicated, sincere and hard-working young man, a prefect at St Joseph's, with a love of music which stayed with him all his life, and one who encouraged the participation in choirs in Church.

In the early years of the seminary, football in the winter was de rigeur. There were two ways of playing. Bob's dad, Arthur had played for Geelong in the 1920s and yet Bob's musical and cultural interest made him like two classmates of mine, that while combat was waged in the centre of the football field, seminarians of lesser sporting ability were placed on the wings where they would discuss literature, philosophy, music and other subjects while the combat went on around them.

Bob was a very competent musician who had a fine bass voice. He was a welcoming and generous young man, and I remember particularly the friendship that he showed to me and the members of my class when we entered two years after going to Werribee.

After ordination, Father Bob served as a priest in Geelong, South Yarra, Cheltenham, Gardenvale, Heidelberg, Spotswood and Mitcham, before a short term as administrator in North Balwyn and then terms as parish priest in West Melbourne and Healesville, administrator in Lilydale and Hampton Park, and finally at Ringwood from the beginning of 2004 until he was appointed Pastor Emeritus on 31 May 2006.

Many of you would be aware that demands made upon priests in regular parish ministry are constant and burdensome - the people who call at the door, the regular Masses and sacraments, the care of people which happens at any time of the day or night. As he became older, Father Bob found that these demands and their constancy were burdensome to him, so that at time he suffered indifferent health, and yet he must be known as a good priest who persevered in the appointments he was given. He interspersed his work with a sabbatical in America and some times of leave, after which he would return and zealously undertake the constant work of the parish which was sometimes a great burden to him.

Finally, in 2006, he became Pastor Emeritus when he returned to live in Geelong, where he enjoyed the love of family and friends, and more recently the care of Rice Village.

Bob is remembered above all as one who persevered generously, without hesitation and with patience. His sincerity, openness and goodness helped him to recognise Jesus in the Eucharist in the breaking of bread. His contribution through charismatic prayer, music, pastoral care and priestly goodness to the life of the Church will be remembered by many of his parishioners and friends.

'May his gentle soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

+ Denis J Hart,
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