Friday, 03 March 2023 21:34

Phil Reilly, an MSC Brother’s life, Formation and 50 years.

Phil Reilly, an MSC Brother’s life, Formation and 50 years.

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Phil celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Profession on January 13th – but his celebration was on February 25th at Erskineville parish where he lives.

Phil kindly gave us the text of what he said on that day.  It is long but it tells a story of a Brother’s life in the Australian Province – and you have the weekend to read it and look at the photos.

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My dear Family, MSC Brothers, and my Dear Friends

How 50 Years of Profession creeps up on one so quickly, a definite sign for me that I am heading into the upper older age bracket.

I actually began my journey with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in 1970, at Croydon Victoria. A group of 18 youngish men, commenced our training, which we call the pre novitiate. Of course the 18 of us were first hoping to be professed as Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Because the Second Vatican Council had finished, there were subsequently a lot of changes happening in the Church. The Formation of those wanting to join Religious Life was no exception. So, the group of 18 commenced training, to learn about the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and about Religious Life, and the living of it. 10 of the group were thinking of priesthood and 8 of us to be brothers.

The changes in the Formation training, also meant changes where we were to live. So in 1970 it was Croydon Victoria for our first year of pre novitiate and study, 1971 we moved to Canberra in the ACT, for our second year of learning. 1972, back to Croydon Victoria for our Novitiate, or what is known as the Spiritual year. It is a more contemplative year, learning more about ones self, prayer,  Religious Life, and ultimately discerning whether Religious Life is meant for each person in the group. So at the end of the Novitiate, you come to a decision whether you are being called to make first Profession or whether your Vocation in life may be elsewhere. On the 13th January 1973 I made temporary Profession for three years as a Brother in the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Once again we moved after First Profession, and so in February 1973, we returned to Canberra, where we studied, and worked.

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Jac Boelen MSC at front. Phil and Jac were professed together

Towards the end of 1973, I was asked by the Provincial whether I would be willing to go to St Mary’s Towers Douglas Park. My new job was to be the cook for the community there. Being newly Professed, wet behind the ears, of course I agreed to the request, even though I had only helped in the kitchens during my training, but never run a kitchen, or cooked by myself.

Well, I have to say that I did survive quite well at Douglas Park and found that I could cook!! This of course I owe to the recipes from the Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine, which my Mother and Sisters used to send to me. I was also saved by finding a copy of the Country Women’s Association Cookbook. This cookbook was essential, as it gave you the amount of ingredients that you needed for larger numbers!! During my time at Douglas Park, the community increased in numbers as the Novitiate was again held there. Also, the Retreat House Ministry commenced while I was there, and Douglas Park became a popular place to make a Retreat. So, the CWA cookbook was so handy, as I would often be cooking for over 50 people. I also must pay tribute to Mrs Shirley Clarke who was a long time resident of DP, and who lived on the St Mary’s Towers property with her husband Bill. Shirley and Bill were a great help to me, and Shirley would help in the kitchen especially with the dietary meals.

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Many MSC used to say that I did very well in the kitchen there, and would comment on the Roast Dinners, and the baked potatoes. Any time I saw one of our priests the late Fr Martin Wilson, even when it was years after I left Douglas Park, he would always mention the baked potatoes. Well, all survived who ate there, and I survived in the kitchen too. In January 1976, I made my Final Profession. At the end of 1979 I was asked if I as willing to accept another appointment. A new kitchen and retreat house dining room had been built during that year at Douglas Park, and so I asked the Provincial if I could stay for one more year, and work in the new kitchen. He agreed to my request. At the end of 1980, I was asked to transfer to Downlands College Toowoomba, and so I commenced my new appointment there at the beginning of 1981.

I lived at Downlands College, from !981 – 1991. I was first appointed to work in the College Office, to help in the finance section. I also helped out with some Boarding duties. In term 4 1991, I was appointed as the acting Housemaster of Hyland ouse, one of the Boarding Houa House, one of the Boarding Houses. The Housemaster at that time, was unable to continue with running the Boarding House due to ill health. It is not easy taking over from a popular person, nor in the last term of the school year. Father James Littleton was Principal, and he was most supportive whenever I asked him for advice.

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In 1982, I was appointed the Housemaster of Hyland House. I enjoyed my time at Downlands. I made many friends, both those who worked with me in the office, the teaching staff, and of course parents. I have been amazed that over the years, past students have taken the time to find out where I was stationed, and then sent messages to be in touch with me. They have been most kind, in sharing time, their memories, and parts of their lives, and a meal from time to time.

In late 1989, I was given the opportunity to attend a month’s course at St George’s College Jerusalem, visiting the various places of the Holy Land. In 1990 I was appointed the Assistant Headmaster Residential. I was still Housemaster of my Boarding House at this time. It was the days when there were 360 Boarders at the College. I think I managed to carry out the job to the best of my ability. I was also most fortunate while at Downlands, to accompany various school tours that were held, and travelled to Tasmania, Hong Kong, China, Fiji, and was the only male on a girl’s sporting tour to New Zealand!

In 1992, I was given Sabbatical Leave, and spent six months in the USA at the Wellsprings course. This was a course for deepening one’s spiritual life, and a time for personal growth. This was a blessed time for me, and I do know that I gained so much personally. There were people from many countries. It was a wonderful group, and I made many friends, who were so kind to me. I am forever grateful to the Australian province, for allowing me this Sabbatical time.

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In July 1992, I returned to Australia, and to my new appointment at Chevalier College Bowral. My appointment at Chevalier was from 1992 -2003. I was appointed the Housemaster of Shields House.

Because of some difficulties between the previous Housemaster and the students, it was not an easy start. Recently I had cause to re-read a student’s brief report in the College Magazine of that year which stated, “there was potentially a time of turmoil between the boarders and their new House Master, however with the help of the house captains, the Housemother, and Brother Reilly’s agreeable and friendly nature, the integration was smooth and trouble free’ So I must have done things right!!

In 1993, I was appointed the Director of Boarding. I do remember having some trepidation about whether I could carry out this responsibility. I remember going to Father Bob Irwin, and saying that I think I may have made a mistake in taking on this role. He very kindly pointed out that I had already carried out the role at another place, and would do the job at Chevalier too. So I continued on!!


Phil and sisters, Sheena and Anita

In 1997 after consultation with the Religious Community at Chevalier, I was appointed the Religious Superior of the MSC Community. I was Superior for 7 years, and finished when I left Chevalier in 2003. I must have done a reasonable job I suppose as I was reappointed twice!! On the 21st February 1998, I celebrated my Sliver Jubilee of Profession at Chevalier, Father John Mulrooney was the celebrant then too. At the end of 1999, my Boarding House closed, due to the declining number of Boarding Students. I was then appointed as an assistant in the library, and also helped out with Boarding Duties, for one more year. The next two years were full time in the Library. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Library, where I was able to learn new skills, be given more responsibility in the library, work with some terrific staff, who were a great help and support. Of course, it helped that one of the Library staff was a great cook, so the morning teas that we had were quite something. I have to say that I enjoyed my time at Chevalier, and it was generally a positive time.

At the end of 2003, I was asked if I would leave Chevalier, and transfer to Treand House, the Provincial House, at Coogee. I accepted the appointment and was the assistant to the Province Business Manager. Working at Treand House was a completely different ministry. It was here that I worked more closely with members of the Province, especially those who were working in overseas missions. At Treand I was responsible amongst other things, for the paying of accounts, Health Insurance of our members, and helping those who were overseas and returning to Australia with their Travel, Travel Insurance, Pensions, Health Insurance, Doctors Appointments, and many other things. This was my longest appointment, and I was at Coogee from 2004 until June 2020.

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Of course one of the important things was also working with and supporting the Provincial. During my time at Coogee, I worked with 4 Provincials, and well tried to keep them in order, not an easy task as you would imagine.

I finished my time at Coogee at the end of June 2020, and moved to Erskineville Parish to live in semi retirement, where I manage to keep myself occupied. I also volunteer with Orange Sky which is the Laundry for the homeless, and Oz Harvest, where food is saved from landfill and given to many in need. I enjoy this very much. Both Tan and myself manage to survive quite well in the Parish House.

I would like to take this opportunity to also thank Father Tan Nguyen the Parish Priest of Erskineville, and the parishioners of the Parish, for allowing me to celebrate my Jubilee here today. To Father John Mulrooney a friend for over 40 years, thank you for celebrating the Mass, and for your homily. To my sister Anita, who travelled from Perth, my sister Sheena and brother in law Paul who travelled from the Gold Coast, and my niece Jessica her partner Nick and their children Jack and Isla, thank you for all the love and kindness you show to me, unfortunately my sister Moya was unable to make it tonight, due to cancelled travel, and my youngest sister Paula because of work commitments was also not able to be here this evening. To Ben Quinn our Cantor, and Joe Dzyzra on the keyboard, thank you so much for your ministry of music. To Mrs Bev Clarke who baked the Profession cake thanks you! To Mrs Anne Rees, Principal of St Mary’s School, for allowing us to move over to the school for refreshments. To my sister Sheena, for speaking on behalf of the family, and Father Bob Irwin on behalf of the MSC, thank you both for your very kind words

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During my religious life I have tried in whatever I was asked to do, and whatever the situation.  Of course, like any job or chosen profession, there have been ups and downs, good times and not so good, and you don’t always get things right, but generally I have tried to do my best wherever I was, whatever the ministry, and that is all one can do.

Of course, I have been so fortunate to have my lovely family, who support me, and are so generous and loving to me. My MSC brothers who have supported me, loved me, and lived with me and my funny ways. During my Religious Life, I have meet so many wonderful people over the years, so many of you are here tonight, and you have honoured me with your presence. I have received so many wonderful messages from friends, and I am very touched by them. I feel very privileged to have such beautiful friends, and you all have been so generous with your friendship, time, listening ability and love.

I truly have been blessed to know you all, and call you my friends, and have received so much more over the years, more than I could ever dare hope to give back to you all in return. So, truly from my heart… I express my deep appreciation, and my affection, love and peace to you all. Thank you!