MIKE Duggan, who died in Brisbane recently, will be remembered for his clear vision to look past his own disability with eyes of faith, and to reach out to others in need.
Mr Duggan was born with cerebral palsy, and was a passionate advocate for the rights of people with a disability.
Brisbane auxiliary Bishop Ken Howell presided over a funeral Mass in St Mary’s Church, South Brisbane – the 71-year-old’s spiritual home.
The Mass was a chance for reflection by close friends, family and community on an extraordinary life lived to the full.
Friend Clare Burns, a reader at St Mary’s, remembers Mike Duggan as a “people person” whose presence drew her to the parish four years ago.
“… And he was never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve,” she said.
“He never shied away from who he was.
“He was incredibly intelligent, humble and incredibly funny.”
Another friend Tony Robertson posted a tribute to Mike Duggan on Facebook: “Words can’t describe the kind of incredible things he has achieved in this life, and the kind of inspiration he was to us all.
“He died very peacefully at home, which was how he wished it to be.
“With very little pain, he spent the last few days in the presence of his workers and friends, very at peace in the knowledge that his time here was nearing its end.”
Mr Duggan encountered challenges throughout life but never gave up.
He lived by the sentiment of his favourite song “(I did it) My Way”.
“When I was born, doctors told my mum to put me away in an institution and also that I would die before I was twenty,” he told The Catholic Leader during an interview in 2014.
“… So they got that wrong, didn’t they?”
From the outset, he put his disability in perspective.
“I say we’ve all got some sort of disability or other,” he said.
“It’s just mine’s more visible.
“And there’s this wheelchair … I can’t put it in my back pocket … I’ve tried but it won’t fit.”
Mr Duggan’s wheelchair was fitted with a custom-made device – a stem topped by a loop – to help him distribute Communion as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion – a role he undertook at St Mary’s.
“He really exemplified Christ’s attributes,” Ms Burns said.
“It took him a moment or two to get out the Body of Christ, but that was a really good opportunity to pause, to be really present for what I was about to receive.”
Anne Tierney, a parish friend for two decades, said Mr Duggan found “nothing impossible”.
“He was a man of integrity, humanity and very deep faith,” she said.
“He seemed to have the capacity to see into people’s souls.
“He was always on about people being treated equally and having equal opportunity.”
In 2004, Mr Duggan won the Queensland Social Justice Award for “outstanding and pioneering contribution to social justice through his role, over many years, in initiating and providing leadership in advocacy for services and human rights for people with disabilities in Queensland”.
His own academic achievements were impressive: a Bachelor of Social Science (QUT, 1988) majoring in Gerontology and Counselling; a Diploma of Community Welfare (QUT, 1985); and completion of a counselling course (Institute of Pastoral Care, Archdiocese of Brisbane, 1982).
Mr Duggan was the inaugural president-chairperson of Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, holding that role for five consecutive years.
He later switched to a paid position and then later became a member of the management committee.
“I am committed to promoting positive values for people with disabilities and to reversing societal prejudices and structures that are counter-productive to such people achieving their rightful place in society,” he wrote on the QAI website.
“I am a constant campaigner for a just and fully inclusive society.
“I truly believe that advocacy is a powerful tool to bring about positive change for those of us who are marginalised, including of course people with disabilities.”
Mr Duggan was an avid reader, liked watching sport, listened to pop and jazz music, and enjoyed life spent with friends.