THERE wouldn’t be many people in the region who haven’t had some connection to Fr Brendan Davey during his time in Ararat as the St Mary’s Parish Priest.
Now after 53 years of service, which has included almost three decades in Ararat and countless weddings, baptisms, funerals and Sunday masses, Fr Davey has decided to retire to concentrate on his health.
The much loved and popular Catholic priest held his farewell service last weekend at the Church of the Immaculate Conception - his home for the past 27 years - in front of more than 350 parishioners.
“It wasn’t emotional because I am happy enough with the decision to retire, so it was a very happy occasion,” Fr Davey said.
“There was a lot of people who came not just from Ararat, but Stawell and other places as well. It was really good, especially to catch up with all these people I hadn’t seen for a while.
“I have been very happy here and I thank the people of Ararat for accepting me. Also what was great was that there were representatives from other churches as well.”
Fr Davey said it was building those relationships with the various churches in Ararat that he sees as one of the most important aspects of his time in the region.
He said the Catholic Church works closely with the Anglican, Lutheran, Uniting and Presbyterian Churches and the Salvation Army, particularly through the Ararat Emergency Relief program.
Wednesday marked 53 years to the day that Fr Davey was ordained in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat, his home town as a 25 year old.
The years that have followed have been full of joy according to the 78-year-old, who said he has no regrets about his time in the priesthood.
After starting dialysis treatment about three months ago in Ballarat, Fr Davey knew it was time to scale things back.
“I am on dialysis three times a week and as well as that I was having unexplained blackouts that would happen without any warning,” he said.
“I haven’t had one for a while and I have the heart man in Ballarat that has been checking a few things out, but even just being on dialysis was enough for me to decide I needed to retire.
“I talked it over with the Bishop and he was quite happy and I am 78 now so it is not as if I am retiring early.”
Forever the optimist Fr Davey has even managed to turn something as trying as dialysis treatment into a positive.
“With dialysis you are not in any pain, it is really a very restful period,” he said.
“You are sitting there and looking at the television, you can read if you want to or sleep and I have often just dozed off - it has been great.
“There are half a dozen of us on it at the one time and whilst you can’t see them all because there are machines and things in the road, you’ve got a bit of contact with them and there is a really good bond, it is almost like a family relationship.”
Retirement will see Fr Davey relocate back to Ballarat to be closer to treatment and while those leaving the workforce may take up hobbies such as lawn bowls or golf, he said he would still make himself available to help out should the church need him.
Stepping down may also present an opportunity for Fr Davey to pursue his other great passion more closely - going to the football to watch his beloved Collingwood Magpies.
“In fact when I had my Golden Jubilee the Marian College kids found out I’d never been to a match at the MCG, just because of work commitments I had never been able to go,” he said.
“So they organised for me to go to a match and Ruth Brain and her daughter took me down. We played the Brisbane Lions and even managed to have a win that day, which was even better!
“It was a good experience to be there and strangely enough, as I said I hadn’t been before and then within a couple of weeks of that my nephew who lives in Queensland and is also a dedicated Collingwood supporter, he nominated me as a ‘living legend’ and the people whose nominations got accepted, we got free entry to a game and made a guard of honour on the hallowed turf - so I was there again within a couple of weeks for another fantastic experience.”
Such is common knowledge of Fr Davey’s love of the Magpies within the community, that last week the students of St Mary’s Primary School donned the famous black and white colours at another farewell celebration - much to his delight.
Fr Davey said the Bishop was meeting with consultants this week to select a replacement for him and that an announcement would be made in the near future.
“What he does is send a letter out to let them know that I am retiring and to see if anyone would be interested in a move,” he said.
“As far as I know I think a few have shown an interest. The new man will come and he will be very good and I will be forgotten I guess.
“I am hoping it will be someone younger than myself who will be really good with the kids at Marian College. I can relate to them well enough, but at the same time if we get in a much younger fellow that would be good.
“I just hope they will have good memories of me I suppose.”
As the realisation that this chapter of his life is coming to an end, Fr Davey admits there is a hint of sorrow, but as always he is taking it in his stride.
“There is some sadness, it is only marginally though, because this is just another part of life,” he said.
“You know it is going to happen and it’s good in a sense that I can now put my feet up for maybe a year or two.”
Well Fr Davey, you have earned it.