By Natashya Fernandez
The Most Reverend Michael Morrissey was ordained the ninth Bishop of Geraldton on Wednesday 28 June at Nagle Catholic College Gymnasium. Born in Geraldton, Bishop Morrissey’s life could not have unfolded any differently than from his childhood days.
In a heartfelt interview with The eRecord, Mrs Margaret Morrissey talks about her son’s upbringing, his vocation to God and why it didn’t surprise her, when at 17 he told her he wanted to become a priest.
Born on 9 September 1952, he was the second and oldest boy of five children who grew up on Noongall sheep station in Yalgoo where life was carefree and fun.
Mrs Morrissey said growing up on the station was a wonderful time for the children.
“They were all close in age and they always played together, or with the other children on the station,” she said.
While there were many things about him growing up, especially his love for reading, the one thing that stood out for her was Bishop Morrissey gathering all the children together to have Mass.
“Michael was always the priest. He would frequently gathered them all together, with all the teddy bears and dolls and would have Mass.
“He was in primary school when he started to do this, probably a bit younger as well and this happened often. The kids enjoyed it as they would all go along with him and take part in whatever he was doing,” she said.
Not one to shy away from doing anything on the station, Bishop Morrissey was liked by all the children and got along with everyone.
“He was a typical boy. Michael could stir up his brother and sisters terribly. They would often get the blame for something he did. It was a well-known fact around the area. The four of them will be playing quietly at home or around the house and he would go out to join them and the arguments would come on straight away. He liked to be boss I think,” she laughed.
But it wasn’t all fun and games for Bishop Morrissey. Growing up on the station, he would often help his mum and dad with chores around the station and was quite adept with all the tools.
“It was a busy life. Noongall was a sheep station and even though they had thousands of acres to roam in, they always helped out on the station.
Between juggling school lessons, working on the station and supporting local events, it wasn’t easy,” Mrs Morrissey said.
Speaking of his life growing up, she said it wasn’t surprising when at 17 he said he wanted to become a priest.
“I think it was his nature. Some people are born to be certain things, and, Michael was born to be a priest. Even though they attended Mass once a fortnight or once a month as church was about 30kms from Yalgoo and the priest would come from Mullewa or Mt Magnet, he really enjoyed going to Mass.
While his dad was the ‘Catholic’ in the family and taught the children the prayers and teachings of the church, it was Mrs Morrissey who encouraged the children to follow a Christian upbringing and said that it took Bishop Morrissey’s father some time to accept him wanting to join the priesthood.
“It took his father some time to get used to it. It was something he didn’t expect. His father was always a man of the land and didn’t expect Michael to go down this path.
“Like a lot of fathers, he expected the boys once they grew up to do something similar,” she added.
Mrs Morrissey said he was ordained a priest on 31 January 1981 in St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton and was straight away sent off to work across the Pilbara in parishes such as Bluff Point and Port Hedland, South Hedland, and Karratha from 1981 until 1992.
She also added that he held various high positions since returning to Geraldton in 1992 and was also Chaplain of the Army Reserve.
“He did a great deal of work there. All his life he has been interested in religious and pastoral things and dedicated himself to the church. All the work he did there widened the field for him, as an ordinary Catholic priest.
“This gave him a broader outlook on how to deal with people in his pastoral work. A testament from all the people he worked with over the years,” she added.
Speaking very highly and extremely proud of him becoming the ninth Bishop of Geraldton, Mrs Morrissey said that it was a wonderful thing, which he thoroughly deserves.
“He has dedicated his life to God and his pastoral work and I cannot be happier for him. It is certainly a special day and moment for us as a family, as it will be the first time that all the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will be getting together in Geraldton to celebrated this momentous day. So, it is a very special occasion for all of us,” she concluded.