You may not know but I am the daughter of a Catholic mother & Atheist father. A reality that as an adult I am thankful for as the strongly differing opinions of these two helped me be the free thinker I am today. I grew up in the North Queensland tropical paradise that was Cairns in the 90s. My mum owned a hairdressing salon & my dad was a scuba diving instructor. I grew up surrounded by the beauty & danger that is the rainforest & the great barrier reef. In my mind (as a child) it was an easy life always filled with adventure; people to meet & places to see. At 5 years old my parents split, some things changed but not a lot, mostly our weekend activities got better! Then at age 8 my mum took us to to live with our grandparents in the Central Queensland town of Emerald, the complete opposite of the environment we were so accustomed to in Cairns.
I remember the day we arrived at my Nana & Grandy’s place, they bought a new house so that we all could fit. We didn’t know where we were going and as we drove down our new street toward the biggest house on the block – I remember the excitement that we had finally made it! It may have been the delirium of a 14 hour drive but regardless my twin sister & I were beside ourselves! We settled in & it quickly turned to night, the house got quiet as everyone settled down. My Grandy stayed awake & let us stay up with him to watch TV – his late night movie of choice was “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”! A movie which has no doubt shaped the interests of my sister & I to this day. We were scared witless but watched it through purely because it meant we were allowed to stay up late.
Early the next morning my Nana woke us up to go to church. My sister & I were seated toward the front of St Patrick’s Catholic Church & as we sat (no doubt impatiently) waiting for mass to start we looked around at our new friends. We sat there for about 10 minutes checking things out, being introduced to people & taking in the huge wooden cross bearing Jesus at the back of the altar. The organ started and everyone stood up, out came our new Priest – Father Dan Moore, a tall man with a thick Irish accent & curly white hair somehow shaped into two bumps on the top of his head. As he stood there in his white robes my sister & I looked in disbelief, we couldn’t believe it – in our 8 year old minds he looked EXACTLY like the Dracula we had seen the night before!
Mass usually lasted for around an hour. This was the longest hour in history as my sister & I just sat there the whole time staring, wondering what weird reality we had stepped into – Could Dracula be our priest?! (Keep in mind we were heavily into The Bailey School Kids Series which had titles like “Dracula doesn’t drink lemonade” & “Vampires don’t wear polka dots” – stories that place our favourite monsters into every day life – fitting for this very occasion don’t you think?! ) As mass came to a close we were asked to stick around for morning tea – we knew we were about to meet him! Father Dan walked toward us with a huge smile on his face & welcomed my mum, my sister & I to our new community. After an hour of wondering what was going on our hearts were very quickly filled with joy when we met such a kind man who seemed to fill every room he was in with his big personality & huge heart. The following week my sister & I started at St Patrick’s Primary School, right next to the church & we would see Fr. Dan on school grounds often during the week. He’d always give students his time, kind words & was heavily involved in different activities around the school & town – Everyone loved him!
As Christmas would get closer the parish would have end of year parties & I swear Fr. Dan would receive enough Guinness to keep him going for the next year. I don’t know if he even liked Guinness but he did love a drink & a sing along! I have one particular memory of him hanging from the rafters at a school function pretending to be a monkey! That’s just the kind of guy he was – the life of the party!
I want to call Fr. Dan my first “Rock Star” because he became this person that was so exciting to see (the same feeling I get now when I see a musician I admire)! I know that sounds ridiculous because you’d hardly liken a priest’s life to the craziness you hear about real rockers. But if you saw his car driving around town or if you saw him in the general public doing something “normal” like shopping or sitting at a cafe it was like a crazy celebrity spotting!! He was so approachable – you could run over & say hi & he would always remember your name & ask you whats happening in your life no matter how silly life’s problems were for this pre-teen. He had this larger than life persona – The X Factor!
I received word yesterday that this wonderful man who I so looked up to through my childhood passed away in Ireland surrounded by his family. I’m so sad to hear that he is gone but I’m so thankful to have had his influence (& funny memories) in my life & glad that he is no longer in pain.
Until we meet again Fr. Dan, Thank you!