When Maree Tyrrell began to organise the 80th birthday party of Fr Brian Morgan she wanted to do more than just honour the life of an inspiring, humble and still very active priest – she wanted the occasion to be a celebration of the priesthood.
Her dreams were fulfilled when over 150 of Fr Brian’s friends, including 13 priests, gathered at the Doubleview Bowling Club on October 27 to give witness to the powerful influence of a priesthood faithfully lived.
The venue had been elaborately decorated to reflect Fr Brian’s love and dedication to the Church and his special devotion to his beloved Virgin Mary, highlighted by a spectacular cake created in the image of Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica.
The sit-down affair lasted throughout the entire afternoon, providing the opportunity for guests to share how their lives had been touched by the ever-smiling octogenarian.
Numerous speeches were given, traversing the 63 years of consecrated service from Fr Brian’s life as a Christian Brother at Tardun Agricultural School in the Northern Wheatbelt to his time training in Rome and his journeyman existence throughout the southwest of Western Australia.
Long time friend, Elly Moir, spoke for many when she shared the joy and blessing that Fr Brian had brought to her family, focusing not only on his spiritual commitment, but also to the countless kilometres he travelled over his many years of service to parishes, families and individuals throughout the rural communities.
The presence of representatives from Mullewa, Dongara, Wilga, Boyup Brook, Tambellup, Pemberton, Dardenup, Bunbury, Bindoon, Bullsbrook, Ledge Point, Broomehill, Singleton, Katanning, Lake Grace, as well as numerous suburbs throughout Perth testified to the impact made by this unassuming and gentle man of God.
Fr Brian was relunctant to draw any attention to himself on the day and told The Record he would rather honour those who organised and attended the celebration.
“It was a wonderful occasion to see all the dear people who have made up the fabric of my pilgrimage and it gave me an opportunity to thank them for the love, understanding and generosity they have given me over the past 60 years”, he said. “There was even a couple, Peter and Margaret Thomas from Mullewa, who have been friends since 1952.”
“It was a truly memorable occasion and I can’t express my gratitude enough to the wonderful team who made the day possible.”
During her speech, Mrs Moir referred to Fr Brian’s love and faithfulness, describing how she had contacted him several months ago, at three o’clock in the morning, moments before she was to undergo high risk surgery.
She received a blessing and would later discover that Fr Brian had remained in prayer for the remainder of that night interceding for her. Mrs Moir described Fr Brian as a “nourisher of faith”, who was able to inspire others through his homilies and provide hope and comfort during the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“We could share our joys and our problems with him, as he has such a wonderful capacity for listening”, she said, describing how his capacity to give his complete attention to the person he was with endeared him to many.
“I’m sure, like me, many of you have been rendered to tears at times for the overwhelming love that comes from God, working through Fr Brian.”
Mrs Moir also referred to the insightful advice provided by the ever-smiling priest, who has been gifted with the unique ability to seamlessly weave his words of counsel with Scriptural wisdom
“He is able to constantly steer us to toward our ultimate goal of heaven,” she said.
“He suffers when we suffer, he is joyful when we are joyful, he has both sympathy and empathy, he gives direction and encouragement and carries all these in prayers to God.”
Ms Tyrrell said the celebration was a wonderful opportunity for the Church community to express their love and respect, not just for Fr Brian, but for all priests – a sentiment she believes was beautifully reflected when Archbishop Emeritus Barry Hickey sang ‘A Priest in the Order of Melcizedek’, at the conclusion of speeches.