By Peter Bugden
“MARY was God’s finger that was a very visible, tangible presence of God, because of her faith,” Jose Zepeda said in a eulogy at the Brisbane funeral Mass of his friend and colleague Mary Gavin.
“Mary was God’s finger that touched people with love, care and respect, and restored their dignity.
“If someone was in need she responded.”
Ms Gavin, who was director of Brisbane archdiocese’s former Catholic Immigration Office from 1990-94 and Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care director from 2005-06, died on April 16 and her funeral Mass was celebrated at St Bernard’s Church, Upper Mt Gravatt, on April 23.
Mr Zepeda, who worked with Ms Gavin for about 30 years in supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with various organisations, said she was working for the good of others right up to her death.
Brisbane archdiocese’s vicar general Monsignor Peter Meneely, in a message to archdiocesan staff, said Ms Gavin had worked in the Catholic Mission and Catholic Immigration Office since the 1960s before becoming director of the office.
“During these four decades Mary liaised with the International Catholic Migration Commission and International Migration Office assisting migrants/refugees displaced after World War II, meeting them at airports, assisting in resettlement, facilitating travel loans and provided advice to bishops, clergy and people in leadership positions regarding migration and mission,” Msgr Meneely said.
“Mary was also a pioneer in ecumenical and interfaith relations.
“Mary continued to be actively involved in support of the work of the Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care (formerly Catholic Immigration Office) until accepting to be acting director in 2004 and then director in 2005-2006.
“During these years and many years after, she continued her passion in providing support to migrants and refugees not only in Brisbane but also in other parts of Australia.”
Msgr Meneely said that until Ms Gavin’s death she continued supporting those in need through the organisation Always People.
Founded by Ms Gavin and Mr Zepeda in 1994, Always People works “for justice, peace, the environment and the well being and happiness of people” around the world.
Mr Zepeda said in whatever Ms Gavin did, “whoever she helped, she always was doing it out of her faith”.
“Her working life couldn’t be separated from her faith,” he said.
“From the arrival of the first asylum seekers in Brisbane … Mary said we need to live our faith in practical ways.”
Together Ms Gavin and Mr Zepeda established the Romero Centre to support asylum seekers coming to Brisbane for resettlement. The centre was later to operate under the auspices of the Sisters of Mercy.
Mr Zepeda said Always People, which is involved in supporting education, health care and development in communities in various parts of the world, had been able to provide scholarships for young people, “due to Mary’s passion”.
“We miss her physical presence but she will be very much alive for years to come – for generations to come.
“There are children in Years 1 and 2 who are in school because of Mary (through her work with Always People).”
Ms Gavin’s niece Wendy Cusack gave a eulogy on behalf of Ms Gavin’s family.
Ms Cusack said her aunt, who had been diagnosed with a brain tumour last November, “made life-long friends and worked hard at staying in contact with them”.
“Friends and relatives flew from around the country to catch up with Mary during the last couple of months,” she said.
“She loved learning more about people and their families and valued people from all faiths and cultures and all walks of life.”
Ms Cusack said “not once did I hear (Mary) complain about the unfairness of her situation” of having a brain tumour.
“Mary accepted and trusted completely in God’s plan for her and believed that God would give her the courage and strength to deal with her illness. And He did. She was an inspiration,” she said.
“Mary was determined, generous, loyal, loving, strong, uncomplaining, intelligent, passionate, fearless and faithful.
“Mary was an incredible daughter, sister, aunt, great aunt, cousin and friend.”