A lifetime of good works

Thursday 5 May 2022

Maurice O’Donoghue speaks with more than a hint of humility when reflecting upon his years of service as a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

“I have just hung around a little longer.”

Honoured with Life Membership at St Mary’s Church, Corowa last December in recognition of his 60 years of service, the 83-year-old Wahgunyah farmer has performed a variety of roles over that time, most notably acting as secretary of the local Corowa Conference for the past 25 years.

(L-R) Arthur Campbell, Kevin Freeman, Peter Bates, Maurice O'Donoghue, Paul Lemmon

Developing a unique ability to succinctly reproduce handwritten and typed meeting minutes twice a month in his role as secretary, the self-described ‘run-of-the-mill’ member has seldom missed a meeting since joining the Society on 11 December 1961.

Born on 10 January 1939, Maurice has lived on the border of the Murray River for most of his days while spending his young working life carrying out jobs on the railways and shearing sheep for 30 years.

Following the passing of his father in 1990, Maurice returned to his family farm where he continues to tend the land to this day.

Through all that Maurice has seen over the years, attending Conference meetings and carrying out jobs as a Vinnies member has been a constant.

First attracting the attention of the Corowa Conference president through his involvement with the local church and Young Christian Workers organisation, Maurice was invited to join Vinnies as a 22-year-old.

“My first job was periodically mowing an old lady’s lawn.”

“I never thought at the time whether she donated any money for this duty. When you’re young you’re idealistic and it gave one pleasure to be helping people.”

Other tasks he has performed during his six decades of service include visiting people in need in their homes, hospitals and aged care; cutting and delivering firewood; helping with the production of Christmas hampers annually; clearing out donation bins; fundraising; and much more.

In reflecting on the impact Vinnies is able to make in communities every day, Maurice views individuals coming together for collective good as a key factor.

“The saying is that one person alone can only do so much, but a group is able to achieve a lot more.

“Experience is a great teacher, and a group of people are most likely to have much more than an individual. Also, one does more collectively because one doesn’t want to let the team down.”

While his role within the Society is less consistent than earlier days, Maurice can still be found each Sunday helping to put away donated goods and fulfilling his duties as Conference secretary.

“Now, my main thought is to allow those at the ‘coalface’ to tackle the main work and I will be a back-up man when required.”

Beloved by his fellow Conference members for all that he has done over the course of 60 years, Maurice remains humble as ever in the recognition of serving those in need within the community and supporting fellow members.

“I cannot say that there’s been any overwhelming moments, but naturally one gets a certain satisfaction when one has arranged something that makes the recipient better off.”

“Of course, working with generous people is itself a great reward.

“I’ve heard it said that we need the Society as much as it needs us, and I agree wholeheartedly.”

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The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has been alleviating the hardship and disadvantage of thousands of people every year for more than 140 years.

Learn more about becoming a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society here.