Bunbury’s St Patrick’s Cathedral was filled with almost 1,000 mourners on Friday, October 25 for a rare ecumenical service to honour the life of an extraordinary man, Bunbury’s former mayor, Dr Ernie Manea.
Albany-born Dr Manea, 86, was an Anglican but was held in high regard by all religious denominations, and particularly the Sisters of St John of God who staffed the local hospital.
“He was an enormous friend of the St John of God order who adopted him as their personal saint, I think,” another former mayor of Bunbury, David Smith, told the ABC. “He chaired the local board for many years.”
Part of Dr Manea’s affection for the nuns could be explained by the fact his mother was Irish, in addition to having had a Greek father.
Dr Manea’s son, Mark, told the congregation in his eulogy that when his father had arrived in Bunbury in 1952, a hectic work schedule on his first weekend had him wanting to return to Perth.
But the kindness from the St John of God Sisters, in the form of a hot cup of tea and a sandwich, had helped change his mind.
About 15 sisters who attended the service were given a spontaneous ovation for their work after they were asked to stand by Canon Brian Newing, who coordinated proceedings. Sister Helen Connolly also led prayers for the Manea family.
Father Edwin Ocho and the Uniting Church’s Reverend Greg Ross had responsibility for the readings, and the Salvation Army’s Major Trevor Wilson read Psalm 23. Dr Gary Mincham read the Physician’s Oath.
Politicians, past and present, were scattered through the congregation.
So highly was Dr Manea regarded, not only in the South-West but also around the State, that he received approaches from three major political parties to represent them at various elections. All approaches were declined.
I first met Dr Manea in 1965 when he was president of the South Bunbury Football Club and I was a player.
Several years earlier his family had adopted a young Aboriginal boy, Syd Jackson, who quickly established himself as a champion player in Bunbury, Perth and Melbourne. Mr Jackson was a pallbearer at the funeral.
The last time Dr Manea and I spoke was in 2010 when he organised morning tea at Parliament House for the St John of God nuns.
It was a grand occasion and the Premier, Colin Barnett, and veteran Labor MP Tom Stephens dropped by to have a chat.