Noel Vincent Molloy was born in Wagga Wagga to Stan and Sarah Molloy. He liked to tell people he was born the same day as Elvis Presley. He was the second youngest in a family of five children and the only boy. His sisters were Anne (deceased), Pat, Margaret (deceased) and Moira.
Noel’s early years were spent at a new school, St Edwards, set up in 1953 by the Christian Brothers at East Gosford. One day an editor from the local paper came to the school looking for a cadet journalist. He told the principal he was looking for a person who liked to tell stories, might look out the window during class and be easily distracted, and a questioner and people person. Noel started the job on his last day of school, right after the final bell rang.
In 1960 a chance encounter with a long-time friend gave Noel the prompt he needed to consider pursuing life as a Catholic priest. The Church community had always been a central part of his upbringing and his faith. When he was growing up his parents were the model of hospitality and would open the hotel dining room to any of the local clergy who had never learnt to cook.
Noel spent many years learning at Saint Columbus College in Springwood. In 1964 he took a break from his studies to take on a teaching position in a rural town in NSW and he remained in contact with those students all through his adult life. He was ordained at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on December 7 1968 and celebrated his first Mass at St Patrick’s, East Gosford, where his funeral Mass was held.
Noel’s first parish was in Carlingford and then Revesby. He was chaplain at Marist Brothers College in Dundas and lectured at the Catholic Teacher’s College one day a week. His interest in adult education and pastoral theology was born and it never dimmed. Noel’s achievements in his vocation as a priest and educator earned him a lot of respect and enabled him to make many lifelong friends.
In 1974 Noel travelled overseas to accompany immigrants coming to Australia; he was chaplain on the Greek vessel, Ellinis. Sailing to Australia around the Cape and on to Fremantle Noel became friends with many, including the Bywater family. The journey saw celebrations and adventures as they crossed the equator and visited countries along the way. A significant and horrifying experience was the effects of Cyclone Tracy which crossed their path on its way to Darwin.
As was his way with so many families, Noel became a lifelong friend of the Bywater family. He would visit them in Melbourne and was given the nickname ‘Hot Lips Molloy’ because of his love of their mother’s cooking, in particular her ‘curry in a hurry’.
At the age of 37, Noel moved to South Australia to be close to his parents. In Bordertown Noel found himself at home.
He purchased an old caravan, which became an office and a discussion room. He would tow it to different locations, hook it up to the electrical outlet in a shearing shed and stay in the community for several days. This was symbolic of his creativity, inclusiveness and his desire to build community.
Noel’s adventurous spirit saw him returning to Adelaide in the mid-80s to take on what he called his ‘trifecta parish’. He had an office in three locations: his southern suburbs parish, Flinders University and Flinders Medical Centre. On the weekends he often travelled by air to Kangaroo Island to spend the weekend with various communities and at other times he would help out in the Cathedral.
Noel celebrated 20 years of his ministerial journey in 1988 as the parish priest of Yorketown on the Yorke Peninsula. Never one to be still, these years saw him travelling frequently between Darwin, New Zealand and his home in Yorketown.
His next home was Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills. In his words it was ‘a very beautiful place to call home’. Whilst there, he took time to go to Boston to continue post graduate studies.
Noel’s love of teaching brought him back to Sydney in the mid-90s and he taught at St Paul’s National Seminary, Kensington, before accepting an invitation to be a part of the initial team of what is now known as the Broken Bay Institute in the Broken Bay Diocese.
Life remained busy for Noel. He had his car and his fold-up bike, and he took adventure after adventure visiting friends and family and regularly riding 20kms or more a day. He was the envy of all as he boarded the many cruise ships as chaplain. He visited amazing places and made more lifelong friends. He was a part of a choir of likeminded people and they travelled together to different locations to sing at sacred sites.
Noel was always available to his family and he loved, and was very much loved and respected by, his nieces and nephews. Noel drew people to him. People wanted to be in his orbit. He was funny, intelligent, loving and committed to his faith, work, his family and his ever-growing circle of friends. His popularity and giving nature meant he was kept busy over the years with weddings, christenings and the occasional funeral. It didn’t stop at the official business either, he was also part of many birthday gatherings and informal get-togethers. Noel loved people and they loved him right back.
When his health started to decline and he was not able partake in these activities he was well supported by his family and his many friends in South Australia.
Recently, Noel was keen to make the trip across the Hay Plains, a trip he had made often in the past. His niece Annemarie and her husband Brian drove over from NSW to fulfil this wish for him. As you can imagine, the trip was staggered to accommodate the many stops along the way to catch up with family and friends.
Noel enjoyed his time with Annemarie and Brian on the farm at Lawrence. For the few weeks he was there he was given an abundance of love, care and attention and was really spoilt by the extended family.
When his condition suddenly worsened he sadly was unable to return to SA. He moved into Mareeba aged care home in Maclean where he was given expert care and attention until his death on July 6 surrounded by beloved family members.
This river we call the journey of life is made up of events, experiences and the people that come into our lives. It is a river of memories we make along the way, enriched by the people who share with us their journey. Thank you Noel for sharing your journey with us.
To finish with one of Noel’s favourite sayings: ‘God is everywhere but Molloy could be anywhere’.
Taken from the family eulogy.