Fr Lawrence (Lawrie) Moate was born in Melbourne into a devout Christian family as one of seven children of Joseph and Alma Moate. An enthralling storyteller, Lawrie was a master craftsman with words that could weave an entire room of the rowdiest boys to stillness as he spun his yarns.
His Christian formation was gained by attendance at Sacred Heart Parish School and then at Salesian Aspirantate Oakleigh for his secondary studies.
Lawrie joined the Salesians as a novice in 1960 at Rupertswood and a year later was professed as a Salesian of Don Bosco on January 31. After three years of philosophical studies at Oakleigh and practical training at Salesian College Port Pirie, he moved to the Josephinum Columbus, Ohio, for theological studies. He returned to Australia for priestly ordination by Bishop Cullinane on October 23 1971.
A long line of apostolates followed; in schools at Sunbury (Vic) and Port Pirie (SA) and in parishes at Gawler (SA), Brunswick (Vic) and Glenorchy (Tas). In each of these places Lawrie’s warmth and giant heart shone through and made life-long impressions. Lawrie’s confreres used to joke ‘where to next weekend for Lawrie?’ – he would get requests for the celebration of baptisms, weddings and last rites from members of his previous postings. He always made fulfilling them a priority, such was Lawrie’s belief and dedication to the sacraments.
In his homily at the requiem Mass, Fr John Murphy shared some of the close conversations he had with Lawrie.
“Eucharist for Lawrie was an intimate exchange pulsating with life. It was where he lay his life bare and stroked his breast and trusted in God’s merciful love. It was where he renewed the offering of himself and drew strength to be faithful. It was where he remembered the eternal offering of his Lord and renewed his commitment to his mission – to his confrere – to his people. It was an act of thanks for all that filled his life: his faith, his family, his people young and old.”
He drew light and life from word and sacrament and went forth and embraced each day as a new beginning, a new opportunity of grace. It was life giving, life receiving.
Lawrie lifted hearts, expanded minds and calmed the soul with his faith, his knowledge, his wisdom and his understanding, whether that was on the altar, by the barbecue, around the campfire or at the dinner table.
“People loved his homilies and the way he put together his thoughts and ideas,” said Fr Bernie Graham, rector of Glenorchy, where he lived and worked closely with Lawrie. “He had a long and very fruitful ministry throughout his life.”
The ability to create a feeling of genuine welcome in all those around him was a special talent of Lawrie’s and he reserved his most powerful welcome for those who came to Australia seeking asylum.
Fr Lawrie was a vocal advocate for these people, unafraid to make his voice heard in the highest halls of Canberra. They did not forget the power of this welcome either; the pallbearers for Lawrie’s requiem Mass were these special friends of his and one, soon to be baptised, has chosen to take the name Lawrence.
Fr Lawrie passed away at Cabrini Hospital in Malvern, Victoria, after suffering from poor health for several years. He moved on to his eternal reward after serving as a priest for 51 years and a professed Salesian for 61 years.
– Michael GarlandJump to next article