Fr Michael Keogh SDB was born in Quetta, Balochistan, then part of British India and now a province of Pakistan.
The son of Irish-born Bartholomew and Anglo-Portuguese Bernice Keogh, he was the eldest of five children. The others were Kathleen, Eileen, Desmond and Jack.
Michael’s early years were spent in Tangasseri, Kerala, from 1930-1940, then he was sent to the Christian Brothers’ Catholic Male Orphanage in Calcutta. After five years he went to the Salesian aspirantate in Sonada, West Bengal, from 1945 to 1949.
He subsequently joined the Salesians and after completing his studies was ordained on June 26, 1960. He taught at schools in Calcutta and West Bengal, and spent time at a Portuguese enclave in Bandel.
After 48 years in India, Fr Keogh decided to join his mother and siblings who had moved to Australia.
He became a member of the Salesian Australian province in 1974 and was posted to Chadstone, Victoria, until 1975, then to the Boys Town in Engadine, NSW, for a year. From 1976 to 1978 he was at Sunbury in Victoria and from 1979 to 1982 he taught English at Salesian College, Brooklyn Park, in SA.
In between stints in Sydney and Perth, Fr Michael spent a year as parish priest of Brooklyn Park and returned there as assistant priest in 2001. Prior to that he spent a year in Port Pirie.
Fr Keogh’s Celtic qualities of warmth, forthrightness and religious fervor were tempered with the Iberian qualities of kindness and gentleness which ran in the family.
Being the son of a British soldier, discipline was not hard to notice. However, he chose to be a soldier of God.
Fr Keogh’s connection and love for his family was always apparent and many of his friends got to connect with them as well over the years.
His difficult childhood in India inculcated within him a deep sense of concern and empathy, of a bonding and camaraderie unique to the Indian subcontinent. Those blue eyes were able to twinkle at the sound of good, clean humour and at the same time comprehend, when there was anxiety and pain.
Fr Keogh’s ability at Indian languages was an important factor in breaking the ice with many a new Indian migrant. For example, hearing Malayalam coming from a distinctly Anglo-Saxon face for the first time would make a Kerala native nearly jump out of his or her skin! But then most often, a warm and lasting friendship would follow.
Fr Keogh was always a willing participant with all parish activities besides liturgical duties and loved going on bus trips with the seniors of Brooklyn Park and Richmond.
In his ministry and in his other life experiences, he had many a tale to tell which would keep the listener spellbound. Listening to his life experiences took one back in time to the realities of history and his own impoverished childhood during the times of World War II.
Over time, the once very fit Fr Keogh would display his infirmities and talk about his visit to his neighborhood GP and then slowly, it was to hospitals. He did not give up on driving and was always a keen and astute driver, until he was admitted to the nursing home. He continued to keep in touch with family and friends in Australia and elsewhere.
We thank Fr Keogh’s family for the gift of his life of pastoral service and also thank the Salesians of Don Bosco, in whose ethos he followed.
Sources: the Salesians and the eulogy given by Blaise Fernandez.Jump to next article