A reflection at the funeral of Fr Bert by Michael McConville

Our Mass commitments always began with the arrival of the little white car. Get the walker out, Fr Bert and the plastic bag. The bag contained the homily in the green folder, his glasses and his missal. Fr Bert to the Sacristy for vesting and to see people who needed to see him before Mass, last minute instructions, Green Folder to the Lectern, Glasses to the Altar.

Father Bert was an educator, a servant leader, a lover of Scripture and great story teller. A good opening and a good close. Very precise in how he set up his homily – The Green folder and two pages of text – never more. The pages set up with the last page slightly sitting lower from the first so – he could easily move from first to second.

I have the green folder and the three pages (Sorry Mate). So, Fr Bert here we go – two men were sitting in the waiting room of heaven. A younger man and an older man, both wearing a Red and White Football jumper -Sydney Swans. (Why Sydney Swans!!! – Red and White = Malta) As they waited, they started talking. The older man asked the younger – tell me about your life. The younger man responded – I was a Christian brother. I devoted my religious life to educating younger people. I worked all over Australia. But as the years went on the demands started to take their toll, so I asked God to help me discern the next steps in my life. What about you said the younger man – I have a feeling we have met before. I too started as an educator and moved to become a Salesian Priest. As a Priest I worked in many parishes and roles. Yes!!!!! by now you have worked me out – The young brother – Bro Simon transformed to become Fr Bert. Fr Bert transformed to become our friend, mentor, gardener, confidant. Fr Bert continued to educate and grow people. If you look at any of the photo’s around our Parish, he is always there. People ask – who is that with Fr Bert, his involvement with; Legion of Mary, RCIA, Evergreens, KSC, Liturgy Team, Vinnies, Plenary Council, Altar Servers and much more. In these times of Plenary Council Fr Bert was a natural servant leader. He was a team player & liked a challenge – In 2014 Fr Kevin was ill and unable to lead our Easter Ceremonies. Off the bench at 78 came Fr Bert and with the help of the Parish Liturgy team and the Parish Donkey – he delivered a wonderful meaningful Easter. I would like to dispel a rumour, rumour has it that Fr Bert liked food. No Fr Bert loved people and with people came food. For his love of people, he was prepared to sacrifice some things – even his waistline. His love of people saw so many of you as his friends and carers – as one acquaintance commented – he had an army of carers. All of you did such a wonderful job! I said before Fr Bert was a gardener – he planted seeds and grew trees. He grew trees that he knew he would never sit under.

As I said before Fr Bert’s model always included a good close. Fr Bert was a good closer – he had some famous closers. As a matter of fact, I have one of them with me. (Hold up the rope) “Famous Fulbrook Fetcher” – Many of you will remember the Green falcon. When the door was open, he found it a bit hard to reach out and close it. So, he tied the rope to the door handle and pulled the door closed – he was an innovator. (E bay Franchise – funds to needy cause- The Sydney Swans)

Fr Bert and I had some small traditions – one was as we returned to the Sacristy after Mass – He used to say “That’s another we walk away from” – a saying we borrowed from our mutual Friend Deacon Aspinall and he borrowed it from his time as an English Bobby. In recent years walking away became harder and perhaps a waddle. Fr Bert’s determination made sure he exercised his ministry right near the end of last year – His strength was amazing Well Bert my friend this is another we walk away from. You have walked on to your eternal reward.

We continue to walk on to care for the many trees you have planted and as you modelled, we will plant more seeds. Walk on with our God dear friend.

….Michael McConville

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