BUYING a Christmas present for Kevin Flanagan was always a simple affair. “Kev the Rev” was happy with a good 12-year-old single malt whiskey; so happy in fact that he never got around to sharing any of it with me.
But he stuffed it up for himself this year by dying a couple of days before Christmas, leaving me with no other choice than to have a couple, or six, whiskies at his wake, appropriately at the Albury Club.
Appropriate, because it is directly across the road from St Matthews Anglican Church – the place of business of his old mate, the “pony-tailed padre”, Peter MacLeod-Miller.
They were an odd couple, with the latter being into pomp and ceremony while Kev was used to more humble surroundings.
But as community leaders they were unstoppable, with both striving to make their churches more ecumenical, inclusive and just, with an emphasis on social justice and improving the lives of the down-trodden.
In other words, dragging their organisations kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Which unfortunately didn’t happen in the end, with MacLeod-Miller not appearing on the altar with the other clergy, as he was “disinvited”, to use his words, the day before by the powers-that-be in Wagga.
This was despite the Sacred Heart locals being keen to have him involved, and the poor bloke was obviously broken-hearted at not being involved in some way at his mate’s farewell, despite a couple of mentions.
Flanagan himself would have been ropeable and seen the snub as an attack on all the hard work he and the P-TP had put in.
Fr Flanagan stayed in his job for as long as he did for many reasons.
But one of them was to provide sanctuary for those parishioners who wished to escape the tyranny of the “storm troopers”, those orthodox members of the clergy who are more comfortable with how the Catholic Church was structured 60 years ago.
The huge number of people who turned up for his funeral would have delighted him no end and with his wickedly dry sense of humour, would have casually mentioned to MacLeod-Miller that it was wonderful to see so many Anglicans in attendance.
No doubt his adversary would have replied that he was only too happy to organise his flock to help out on such an auspicious occasion.
But it would have been a bitter-sweet moment for Kev the Rev when he realised that among the huge crowd there would have been very few Melbourne Demons supporters; but no doubt the Irish-Catholic priest could have taken some comfort at the number of Collingwood supporters who would have been there.
Like many families, ours had a lot to do with Kevin through the usual marriage, baptisms, confirmations, funerals and so on.
In fact, it was his unintentional Intervention that saw myself and my bride married (I think The Lioness has forgiven him).
Her father was a “once-a-year”, Christmas Day Anglican who had decreed our marriage would be held at St Matthews or not at all.
My more devout parents said it was the Catholic Church or nothing, so it looked like my bride and I would have had to elope until someone came up with using Kevin to do the deed.
That was acceptable to my father-in-law-to-be, although the ceremony was held on the neutral grounds of St Patrick’s.
Frs Flanagan and MacLeod-Miller are once-in-a-generation leaders.
All of us in this region should realise how lucky we were to have them operating here at the same time.