Funeral Mass of Father Ross Mckenney at Saint Joseph’s Church, Elsternwick

Tuesday 24 May 2016

"Blessed are those who die in the Lord, they shall rest forever after their works, since their good deeds go with them." (Rev 14:13)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we come to farewell a devoted pastor, a brother priest who loved his people and had a deep appreciation of the seriousness of the priesthood. Indeed, gravitas and facility with words, as well as the way he wove sentences together with expression and development, are very characteristic of him. He used his great abilities always in the service of his people, and in reflecting the love of his mother, Catherine, of his siblings and family and particularly, of the parochial and Jesuit education which he had received.

Father Ross was born at Benalla on 25 February 1945 and was educated at Saint Bernadette's School, West Ivanhoe, and in the very special community of Saint Patrick's College, East Melbourne, from where he matriculated in December 1962. He had been an altar server at West Ivanhoe and always joyfully conveyed a sense of ceremony in what he did. Ross was gifted intellectually and benefited greatly from the Jesuit education, the small classes and the friendships of Saint Patrick's College close to the Cathedral.

For about a year and a half before leaving school he had contemplated joining the Jesuits and he entertained this for some months further, with a brief stay in 1964 in the novitiate at Watsonia, before emerging more clearly with the idea that his vocation was as a diocesan priest.

Each of us has our own rate of development towards our state in life. In the second half of 1964 he was a judge's associate in the County Court responsible, as he put it, “for the formal procedure, pleading and clerical requirements of the Court in its criminal and civil jurisdiction and for communicating with the barristers and their clients”.

Ross received a university scholarship to study law, which he delayed until 1964, and remained studying until graduating in November 1968. After a further post-graduate course in 1969 and the completion of Articles he was enrolled as a barrister and solicitor, and practised as a solicitor. In 1971 Ross went to Saint Paul's National Seminary in Kensington where he enjoyed the companionship of other mature men, always acting with style, and was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Little on 24th August 1974.

After a brief appointment in Castlemaine he went to North Balwyn (1975), Murrumbeena (1978) and was asked to study Canon Law at the Catholic University of America for a year from mid-1978 to 1979. When he returned he worked on the Matrimonial Tribunal, residing at Preston until his move to Mentone as Administrator for a brief period in 1987. In his time at the Tribunal he undertook the work of interviews, counselling and defending the bond. Archbishop Little appointed him for a term of two years as Director of the Office of Reconciliation of Disputes. His term was further extended and he was also appointed a judge.

Underneath a strong, confident exterior was a great sensitivity to people. He was concerned at times about their needs, reached out to children as their pastor and was loved and respected in the schools.

In 1989 after a short time at Mount Waverley, he became Parish Priest of East Oakleigh and Deanery Coordinator until 2001, when he was appointed Parish Priest of Templestowe for a short time, followed by an appointment as Pastor at Burwood from 2002 to 2006.

Ross really loved his time here in Elsternwick. He loved the Church, the house, the people, the school families; he sought to understand them and, although his health was indifferent at times, he would surround them with care. He was a man who obviously loved his faith and loved and befriended Church leaders. This was evident in his conversation and in his large view of life, of people and of the serious issues which confronted us.

Six months ago, upon diagnosis of cancer, Father Ross made the difficult decision to retire and become Pastor Emeritus. I know he enjoyed the company of other priests at Justin Villa, but after recent hospitalisation, he went to Bundoora where he was very sick indeed.

Father Ross McKenney used his gifts well and with constancy. He sought to be a good pastor despite the limitations of health from time to time. He was a man who loved the Church, loved the faith and loved people. His suffering borne with courage, his ministry reaching out to people, his seriousness about the faith and all it contained are the good works which he leaves as an example for us of a man dedicated to the great ideals of priesthood in our Archdiocese.

Ross, we thank you for your loyalty and friendship; we thank you for your good and forthright manner; we thank you for your devotion to God's people over your forty-one years of priesthood. May you rest in peace.

+ Denis J Hart,
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