By ROBIN WILLIAMS
IT’S hard to picture Bob Boardman as retired.
Catching up for coffee with the man who spent decades immersed in all aspects of Rosies just reinforced that belief. Bob still hums with energy when he speaks of faith, spirituality and the Catholic Church.
After 21 years at the helm of Rosies, Bob admits it will be hard to slow down.
“It is going to take me a long while to slow down – to step back –because it’s become a big part of my life,” he said.
Bob was the eldest of the Boardmans’ eight children. His parents were Gympie dairy farmers from Imbil who moved to Ipswich when he was four. Bob’s father came from a strong Irish Catholic family and his mother converted, and he and his siblings were always active participants in the St Mary’s Ipswich community.
“I was educated by the Christian Brothers at St Mary’s Ipswich and I met and married an Ipswich girl,” he said.
His early work life was spent in the retail sector.
“My family bought a small business, a corner store that I ran for six years then joined Woolworths, and I was with Woolworths for seven years as supermarket manager,” he said.
Bob, wife Teresa who he married in 1969, and their young family then headed off to Longreach to manage a Walter Reid and Co store.
“At Longreach we were very involved in the Church and the school (and) we did the Marriage Encounter weekend out there,” he said. “We were there for two years and then Walter Reid and Company transferred me to run the store in Gladstone and that’s when we came in touch with the Marist Fathers.”
That association was to be the catalyst for a career change.
“After being in Gladstone for about a year I was on transfer again to Rockhampton,” he said.
Bob and Teresa had three of their five daughters settled into school in Gladstone and moving again held no appeal.
“The parish priest offered me a position in the parish as parish manager,” he said. “In 1980, I think there was only one other (parish manager) in Queensland.”
After a week of discernment the family decided Bob should take the lower-salaried position and put their faith in God.
“It was very much that God would look after us and I did that (parish manager) for 11 years through three parish priests,” Bob said.
During their time in Gladstone, Bob and Teresa were again involved in various aspects of the Church and were invited to join team that presents the Marriage Encounter weekend, which eventually led them to take on the co-ordination of Marriage Encounter in Central Queensland.
After 11 years, the family decided it was time to move again, this time heading south to the Gold Coast and a position with Rosies, then a fledgling youth ministry organisation set up by the Oblates in 1987, five years earlier. That position was to become Bob’s life for the next 21 years.
“I didn’t know how long it (work with Rosies) was going to be,” he said. “I thought it might be three or four years perhaps but from those humble beginnings it’s just grown dramatically and it has been a constant challenge every year to keep the resources up to our outreaches and to meet the needs out there, but it’s also been a very humbling experience as well.”
Bob said he became passionate about the work of Rosies.
“As Rosies grew, the time I had to spend with Rosies also grew, and we had to bring more paid people on board to help to take it to the next step and the next step and the next step,” he said.
Bob said he eventually found he had to delegate more to maintain his focus on keeping the Rosies mission alive in the hearts of volunteers.
“So I moved away from actually going out on the ‘street’ to working with the team leaders to develop that (mission),” he said.
Bob’s passion and faith wasn’t just for Rosies alone, it was for the Church as a whole and it went back to his early 20s.
“When I was about 22-23, Teresa and I had an encounter with a priest who had experience with the Second Vatican Council,” he said. “He was actually over in Rome for Vatican II and he spoke about it and that changed my life. It changed my focus on who I was and I suppose I discovered that we were part of the Body of Christ.
“The whole focus of being present started there – not to observe, but to be part of and to actually be involved (in the Church).”
Bob said in the 1980s in particular the Church was on fire with the works of the council.
“It was a special time for us as family, for ourselves as well as our children and being part of the Body of Christ,” he said.
Bob said the step from that, to working for the Church and believing that God would look after the family was strong with him.
“And it’s carried me over the years through ups and downs and grassy plains and dry gullies which we all go through and I still have that passion for it even today,” he said.
Bob hopes to find the time to spend more time with his wife of 44 years and write a history of Rosies, but his Surfers Paradise parish priest Fr Tim Harris may have something to say about that.
“I’ll always be involved in the Church,” he said. “I don’t know how yet (but) the parish priest of Surfers Paradise has said ‘Bob, I’ve got something lined up for you, I don’t know what it is yet but I’ve got something lined up’ so I’m just waiting to see where I’m called.”