Former student celebrates 60 years as a priest

By Jackson Saunders

Priest, Melbourne radio identity and former Corpus Christi College student, Fr Gerard Dowling, celebrated his Diamond Jubilee as a priest with a special Mass on Sunday, August 5.

Fr Gerard continues to be heard across Victoria and Tasmania on Sunday nights with his Family Counsellor Program on Radio Sport National 927 AM.

Born on August 30, 1932, Fr Gerard has served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Melbourne since his priestly ordination on July 27, 1958.

He has also served as the official historian of the North Melbourne Football Club and is an avid Kangaroos supporter. He has written many books on topics such as faith, grief and counselling, as well as a history book on his beloved Kangaroos, “The North Story.”

In the homily of his 60th anniversary Mass, Fr Gerard reflected on his life and his call to bring happiness to others as a priest. He began his priestly ministry as an assistant priest in Burwood and Altona Parishes from 1959 until 1963 and anticipated that he would spend his priestly ministry as a parish priest, but God had other ideas when in 1963 he was asked to complete further studies. Fr Gerard went on to study social work and counselling at Melbourne University. Since then in 1963, he has continuously worked as a priest and counsellor at Catholic Care.

Since 1973 Fr Gerard has been a familiar voice on Melbourne radio. He has presented the Family Counsellor program on 3UZ/RSG/927. His radio program is now the longest running continuous radio program in Australia and has been on the air for 45 years. 

In 1985 he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in recognition of his services to the community.

Other significant achievements have included serving as Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne from 1999 until 2003, and working as the priest in residence at St Cecilia’s in Glen Iris for 14 years until 2016. Since this time, Fr Gerard has been a priest in residence at Justin Villa in Balwyn.

At his recent anniversary Mass at St Cecilia’s in Glen Iris, Fr Gerard said in his homily that he was thankful for these experiences as a priest. He sees his priestly ministry as an opportunity to bring happiness to others.

“My purpose in life as a priest is to help people to be happy,” Fr Gerard said in front of more than 350 people.

This desire to help people is what continues to encourage Fr Gerard, 85, to continue to present his weekly radio program on Sunday nights between 10pm and midnight.

“I hope that the people who ring me, that I might be able to help them. I might share Jesus’ love with them,” he said.

Fr Gerard said that he was grateful to the Lord for his priestly vocation. He is a former student at Corpus Christi College and trained in Werribee.

“I am grateful that I have had this for 60 years,” he said.

At his 60-year anniversary Mass, Fr Gerard wore the vestments he had worn at his first Mass. This included our Corpus Christi College seminary emblem.

Jackson Saunders with Fr Gerard Dowling after his thanksgiving Mass for 60-years as a priest.

Jackson Saunders with Fr Gerard Dowling after his thanksgiving Mass for 60-years as a priest.

A highlight of his ministry has been the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist with people each day.

“It is a tremendous blessing,” he said.

“It is almost overwhelming to think what Jesus did at the Last Supper when Jesus said: ‘Do this in memory of me.’”

Fr Gerard has also been a constant supporter of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life through his work as a chaplain with the Serra Club.

Fr Gerard can be heard each Sunday night from 10pm until midnight on Radio Sport National 927 AM.