Celebration of a life

Celebration of a life

FROM close friends to those he inspired and others he never met, hundreds of mourners spilled outside Bendigo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral yesterday for a Mass to farewell Bishop Joseph Grech.People lined up outside the cathedral for hours before the service to get a seat inside, but those who missed out made use of marquees set up around the cathedral grounds, while others brought their own chairs and umbrellas and spread out on the grass.Television screens showed what was going on inside while those outside also joined in, singing and taking Communion.Hundreds of mourners travelled from Melbourne, Geelong and around the diocese for the Mass, including three busloads of Melbourne’s Maltese community who came to celebrate Bishop Grech’s life.Among them were Savina Sammut and Helen Franzo.“We didn’t know him, we came because he was Maltese,” Ms Franzo said.Avan Zarb came from Geelong with his parents, having known Bishop Grech since his arrival in Australia as a 23-year-old student in 1970.“I knew Bishop Joe way back when he was just Mr Joe,” he said. “I knew him well but we lost touch since he came to Bendigo.“I came to say goodbye to him and pay my respects to a great man.”Mr Zarb also brought his parish priest, Mick Fitzpatrick.“He met Bishop Joe when he first got off the plane in Australia,” he said.“He was sent by the Cardinal to collect him and look after him as a young student.”Bendigo woman Jo Beames arrived half an hour before the Mass and said she hadn’t expected to see so many people arrive that early.“He was a really lovely man,” she said.“I’m not surprised there’s so many people here to pay their respects but I didn’t think so many people would arrive as early as they did.”Melbourne man Dominic Fossella was happy to sit outside on the cathedral steps and hear the service through the open doors.“We had known each other for over 30 years – when he was in Melbourne he was my priest,” Mr Fossella said.“He was friendly with everyone – Australian, Italian, Maltese and South American too. Friend to everyone.”Ambulance Australia officers walked around the cathedral throughout the two-hour service, ready to treat people for heat exhaustion.