Wednesday, 28 July 2021 22:51

Eulogy and tribute to Bernie McGrane MSC

Eulogy and tribute to Bernie McGrane MSC

bernie memento Copy

Sharing of memories, roses sent from friends from Japan days.


From Bernie’s brother, Mervyn, and sister, Moira (and souvenir family photos):

Although we are very very sad at Bernie’s passing, in reality the good Lord knew the best time to take him.

We both have very loving memories of Bernie, both in his youth and as a priest.

mcgrane ordination

In Bernie’s words “it is only in our Fallen Human World that death is looked upon as the last enemy to be conquered. And yet death has a timely message for us all. It teaches us not to be too wedded to this world. For the Christian, there is the hope of eternal glory and the sharing in the glorious inheritance left to us by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to this glory and inheritance that we must turn our eyes. The sufferings, pains, disappointments and even losses will all be restored.”

May you rest in peace and share in the glorious inheritance.

Your loving brother and sister
Merv and Moira

mcgrane clerical

Eulogy and tribute, with thanks for Paul Jennings MSC

Bernard McGrane was born in West Wyalong, New South Wales, 25th of May, 1926. The third of five children of Martin and Ita McGrane. He completed his secondary education and Downlands College, entered the MSC novitiate at Douglas Park and was professed an MSC 26th February, 1946. After studies at Croydon, he was ordained on July 27, 1952. He was ordained 69 years yesterday.

Bernie was sent to Eastern Papua as it was called in those days, In March, 1953 and immediately sent to the mission station to Daio over the next seven years. Daio is on the southern side of the bay and included also the Sagarai Valley area across the Pini range to the south.

Apart from 10 years in the 1960s when he worked in education, and 10 years from 1975 until 1985 when he worked at the Academy in Nagoya, Bernie spent the years until 2006 in Alotau with special responsibility for the Dayo area. He was variously the priest in charge of Daio while he was also parish priest and administrator of the Cathedral parish in Alotau on the northern side of the bay, parish priest after Daio was formally erected as a parish in 2003. He shared responsibility different times with Fr Arthur Stidwilll and work together with several OLSH sisters, especially Sister Bernadine and Sister Helen Warman.

Like all the MSC foreign missionaries of his time, Fr Bernie did not have an opportunity to study Missiology, but he did have a very important source of wisdom: the Manual for Missionaries, written by Archbishop Navarre and printed at Yule island in 1896. This manual contains six or seven principles for missionary activity, which included:




4.            USE CATECHISTS



mcgrane family

Fr Bernie was committed to all these principles. I want to reflect especially on the first – the importance of local language. Many of us are aware of Bernie’s interest in and study of both Greek and Hebrew. He did this to help him find more accurate translation of the Bible readings of the Mass into Yaleba language and dialects; he was not satisfied to translate from English translations available at that time.


There were reasons why the Holy Spirit empowered the apostles, at Pentecost, to enable all the listeners to hear the good news in their own languages. The Good News is more likely to find a home when it is heard within the language and culture of the specific people. Language is at the heart of culture; people retain their culture when they retain their language. Bernie was one of the many missionaries who kept local languages alive by changing them from spoken only to both written and spoken language. It is beautiful to witness people today, especially young people, sitting quietly in the evening or on Sunday and reading their New Testaments in their own language.

The Constitutions of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart describe our Mission:

‘we are sent into the world to establish new churches and to be of their service; to help churches in need and bring those who are far from the world into the community of believers.’ (23).

When he wrote about his times as parish priest of the Daio, Yaleba area, Bernie wrote:

the purpose of missions is to plant and establish the church. And now, after 50 years, I have seen all this happening before my eyes. Happy indeed those who had such an experience. Those of us who have worked in Papua New Guinea are the privileged ones. When I started there were no local priests, very few local teachers or nurses, maybe one local Bishop. Now in one generation the local people lead the church at almost every level and local laity are strong and becoming better educated. I have witnessed and been part of a miracle of God’s grace.

mcgrane family young

Bill Cunningham in his book, 75 Years of Building the Church in Milne Bay, tells the story of Bernie McGrane and the planting of the Catholic Church at Buibui (Gibara) a village on the western edge of the bay.

One day in 1953, Fr McGrane was returning to Daio from his regular visit to the Sagarai Valley with his usual four companions. They noticed some young men standing by the side of the path. Fr McGrane continues:

walked past them, giving the usual greeting. Then one of the men, Nalogi, his name, called my companions back and told them he wanted to talk with them while I waited. The men wanted me to start a Catholic mission in their village. I told them I would return and discuss it on another day.

The outcome was that the people decided they would give a plot of land, build a church into school, and a room for father to stay when he came on his regular visits. The mission would provide teachers for the school. Two years after, the first baptisms were celebrated, when many of the sponsors (godparents) were Catholics from Daio Village. Thus bringing the two communities closer.

Fr McGrane concludes: it is a story that owes so much to David Nalogi, Maurice Towasai from Sagaarai  and many of the village leaders and of how the church becomes missionary through people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives and works in them and opens the way for the good news in their lives.


We heard last night of the personal qualities of heart that described Fr Bernie McGrane. His quiet patience, his humour, his ability to sit and listen to stories – and to share them; his commitment to prayer and ongoing learning. I have tried to describe some of the ways our loving God used these qualities to develop God’s plan for the churches of Milne Bay and empower the children of God in Papua New Guinea.

bernie mcgrane lying down

May Bernard McGrane rest in peace.