Fr Lawrence (“Lawrie”) Moate was born in Melbourne on 21 February 1943 into a devout Christian family as one of seven children of Joseph and Alma Moate. An enthralling storyteller, Lawrie was a master craftsman with words that could weave an entire room of the rowdiest boys to stillness as he spun his yarns.
Lawrie joined the Salesians as a Novice in 1960 at Rupertswood and, a year later, was professed as a Salesian of Don Bosco on 31 January 1961. After three years philosophical studies at Oakleigh and practical training at Salesian College Port Pirie, he moved to the Josephinum Columbus, Ohio, for theological studies. He returned to Australia for priestly ordination by Bishop Cullinane on 23 October 1971.
Fr Lawrie Moate
A long line of apostolates followed: in schools Sunbury (VIC), Glenorchy (TAS), Port Pirie (SA) and in parishes at Gawler (SA), Brunswick (VIC) and Glenorchy. In each of these places Lawrie’s warmth and giant heart shone through and made life-long impressions.
Lawrie’s confreres used to joke “where to next weekend for Lawrie?” – He would get requests for the celebration of baptisms, weddings and last rites from members of his previous postings – and always made fulfilling them a priority.
Such was Lawrie’s belief and dedication to the sacraments. In his homily at the requiem Mass, Fr John Murphy shared some of the close conversations he had with Lawrie.
“Eucharist for Lawrie was an intimate exchange pulsating with life. It was where he lay his life bare and stroked his breast and trusted in God’s merciful love. It was where he renewed the offering of himself and drew strength to be faithful. It was where he remembered the eternal offering of his Lord and renewed his commitment to his mission – to his confreres – to his people. It was an act of thanks for all that filled his life: his faith, his family, his people young and old.“
As a member of any school community, Lawrie's presence was always one of warmth and welcome, appreciated by all students he came across.
He drew light and life from word and sacrament and went forth and embraced each day as a new beginning, a new opportunity of grace. It was life giving and life receiving.
Lawrie lifted hearts, expanded minds and calmed the soul with his faith, his knowledge, his wisdom and his understanding – whether that was on the altar, by the BBQ, around the camp-fire or at the dinner table.
“People loved his homilies and the way he put together his thoughts and ideas” said Fr Bernie Graham, rector of Glenorchy, where he lived and worked closely with Lawrie. “He had a long and very fruitful ministry throughout his life.”
Fr Lawrie with a group of young people about to make their first communion
The ability to create a feeling of genuine welcome in all those around him was a special talent of Lawrie’s and he reserved his most powerful welcome for those who came to Australia seeking asylum. Fr Lawrie was a vocal advocate for these people, unafraid to make his voice heard in the highest halls of Canberra. They did not forget the power of this welcome either; the pallbearers for Lawrie’s Requiem Mass were these special friends of his and one, soon to be baptised, has chosen to take the name Lawrence.
Fr Lawrie Moate passed away on 21 September at Cabrini Hospital in Malvern, Victoria, after suffering from poor health for several years. He moved on to his eternal reward after serving as a priest for 51 years and a professed Salesian for 61 years.
This story originally appeared in the Autumn 2023 edition of the Australian Salesian Bulletin