Mentor, Storyteller, Coach, Friend.
Early in the morning on Friday 22 March, Fr Michael Keogh entered eternal life after serving in the provinces of Calcutta and Australia for 69 years as a Salesian, 59 as a priest. He died peacefully at Calvary Flora McDonald Retirement Community where he has spent the last few years.
A memorial Mass was held at St John Bosco parish in Brooklyn Park, South Australia, on Wednesday 29 March. It was presided over by Fr Brian Ahern, rector of the Salesians in South Australia and attended by many of Fr Michael’s friends and parishioners. Blaise Fernandez, who has known and collaborated with Fr Michael for many years, gave a special tribute to the life and works of Fr Michael.
“I stand here today to express my sentiments as a close friend of Fr Michael Keogh and, hopefully, I will also be able to represent the thoughts of most of those gathered here today. I also stand here as a Salesian past pupil, having done my schooling at Don Bosco in Goa. I am sure that we would unanimously agree that Fr Michael was a good priest, educator and especially a good friend. These qualities he exemplified during his early days in India as well as in the years he served in Australia.”
The Requiem Mass and burial took place on Wednesday 3rd April at the Salesian College (Sunbury) chapel and cemetery. Fr Provincial presided over the Eucharist and preached the homily reflecting on the life and service of Fr Michael. Many members of his family and friends were present, including Fr Michael’s sister and brother, Kathleen and Desmond. In fact, Kathleen gave a wonderful eulogy on her brother, speaking fondly of the man who had always wanted to become a priest, ever since childhood!
“His Celtic qualities of warmth, forthrightness and religious fervour were tempered with the Iberian qualities of kindness and gentleness which ran in the family. Being the son of a British soldier, discipline was not hard to notice. He, on the other hand, chose to be a soldier of God. Fr Keogh's connection and love for his family was always apparent and many of us here got to connect with them as well over the years. Fr Keogh's difficult childhood in India inculcated within him a deep sense of concern and empathy, of a bonding and camaraderie unique to the Indian subcontinent. That I am sure, most of us have experienced especially as new migrants, and which was so reassuring and uplifting. Those blue eyes were able to twinkle at the sound of good, clean humor and at the same time comprehend when there was anxiety and pain.”
Fr. Michael Keogh
Fr Michael Keogh was born in Quetta, India, now part of Pakistan, to Bartholomew Keogh, An Irish soldier, and Bernice D’Souza on 21 September 1926, the eldest of five children.At the end of his secondary schooling, he joined the Salesians, making his first religious profession on 24 May 1950. Fr Keogh worked in numerous places in India and Australia including Park Circus, Bandel and Liluah (Kolkata), Krishnagar (West Bengal); Engadine, Sunbury, Chadstone, Brooklyn Park, Port Pirie, Victoria Park and Kelmscott in Australia. Fr Keogh was always a willing participant with all parish activities besides liturgical duties and loved going on the bus trips with the seniors of Brooklyn Park and Richmond.
Fr Anthony Erathara of India recalls Fr Keogh as “a mesmerising storyteller” who knew how to interact with youngsters. A good teacher, he co-authored a text book for teaching English to Bengali students when he was at Don Bosco Krishnagar. A lover of cricket, hockey, football, drama and storytelling, he had all that boys love. He was also an outstanding actor who enjoyed bringing memorable smiles to many people.
Another Salesian confrere, recalls, “Keogh was a decent human being, one who cared about the Salesian charism in its most refined simplicity.” The Golden jubilee of his priestly ordination was held on 26 June 2010 with a large gathering of family, friends, parishioners, guests and confreres at St John Bosco Church, Brooklyn Park, South Australia. Members of Fr Keogh’s family from Victoria and Queensland were present, particularly his sister Kathleen. At the end of Mass, it is said, Fr Keogh joined three other parishioners and as a quartet sang a hymn in Latin, Laudate Dominum (Praise the Lord).