Vale Fr Joseph Michael (Joe) McMahon PE, who died at St Vincent’s Private Hospital on Friday 20 January, aged 80 years. He was a true champion of justice, and an inspirational chaplain in youth justice, particularly in his care for each person and working with young people to help build a pathway to adult life.
Many of us in Catholic social services, including many leaders and his nephew Fr Joe Caddy, looked up to Fr Joe as a model and an inspiration. Through the impact he has had on so many, we are all in his debt. He is now at peace.Monsignor Greg Bennet, Vicar-General, wrote the following:
Fr Joe was ordained a priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral, East Melbourne on 21 July 1962. After a temporary appointment at Belgrave, Fr Joe was appointed Assistant Priest at the parishes of Fawkner and North Melbourne and then served in the youth division of the Social Welfare Department. Fr Joe served as the Acting Prison Chaplain and in many other roles, including that of Vice-Rector, at Corpus Christi College Seminary between the years 1976-1989. From 1989 he served as Parish Priest at Newport and then, in addition, Spotswood, from 2000. Fr Joe was appointed Pastor Emeritus in 2015, commencing as Senior Priest in Residence at Corpus Christi College, Carlton.
Fr Joe will be remembered for his extraordinary service to the Archdiocese of Melbourne and beyond. He truly lived the Beatitudes throughout his ministry; to the sick, sorrowful, to those in prison, in support of those who were merciful to the vulnerable, he was compassionate, empathetic and above all a man whose life reflected a deep friendship with Jesus.
He was a devoted shepherd to his parishioners at Sacred Heart and St Margaret Mary’s encouraging the gifts of others. His life was centred on the Eucharist—it was the source and summit of his life as a priest. In recent days, his nephew Fr Joe Caddy and he were able to celebrate Mass together mindful of the presence of Christ in this time and eternity.
Fr Joe’s life intersected with Corpus Christi College at Werribee and Glen Waverley (student), Clayton (Vice-Rector-Formator) and more recently at Carlton (Senior Priest in Residence). He had a profound influence on generations of students. He could recognise genuine goodness and he also could see deeply into the frailty of men. He never wished to offend, but desired to allow students to grow in their personal integrity, in their faith and in their service of the Church. He could pose the difficult question, identify a potential problem and create a rapport where trust could lead to truth. To his many priest, religious and lay colleagues he will be remembered for his care, insight, prayerfulness and dedicated presence.
Fr Joe was humble and down to earth. He loved people and wanted them to grow and flourish. He was a man of prayer, deeply aware of his own humanity, attentive to the movement of God and open to manifestations of grace. In 2016 his collection of spiritual writings, Of Those I met along the way and other reflections, Fr Joe describes with wonderful insight the many and varied people who have inspired him throughout his life; family, friends, priests, pastoral associates, parishioners, witnesses of love and public figures who in many and varied ways have been a revelation of the beauty of God. It seems his years of illness and treatment provided another lens for him to see the image and face of God. The collection reflects a man who understood his life as blessed, enriched by others and who was able to articulate his spirituality as a Diocesan priest founded in his love for Melbourne and the marvellous people of God.
Fr Joe was a voracious reader of theology, psychology and spirituality. He always had a book on hand, often with his musings in the margins and his slips of paper recording insights. For his personal simplicity of life he had an attentive eye for beauty in word, image, art, film and poetry. He had no pretention but was able to honour the ability of others.
Throughout these years of illness Fr Joe has been accompanied by his loving siblings and their families, deep and personal friendships and the prayerful love of so many. He was grateful for the care of his treating specialists, doctors and staff at St Vincent’s Health and his respite stay at Justin Villa. Fr Joe was never afraid to share his fears, questions and his life with others. His loss of independence and the struggles of sickness were a heavy burden for him. He learned to allow others to carry him and to care for him. Even in hospital he never turned anyone away, but made them welcome at his bedside. Fr Joe loved to pray and he humbly sought God’s blessing from everyone.
The Archdiocese of Melbourne will mourn his loss, together with our friends across the Province and in Hobart. Fr Joe’s suffering is over and we pray that he will enjoy the eternal reward of a life well lived, loved and given in service of The Lord.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Photograph by Fiona Basile