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Pope Pius XII inspires young Adelaide seminarian


Looking out onto the Vatican and Pope Pius XII at work in his quarters each day provided ample inspiration for young Adelaide seminarian Michael Doherty to do well in his studies.

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It was 1954 when the rector at the Rostrevor Seminary told his charge that he was destined to complete his studies in Rome. For a lad who had grown up in Parkside – attending St Raphael’s School and then Christian Brothers College – and had never travelled past Mount Lofty, a trip to the other side of the world seemed a bit daunting.

“That was a bit of a shock,” Fr Doherty told The Southern Cross a few weeks after he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination.

“The first thought I had was that my parents wouldn’t be able to come to my ordination and I was also concerned that the lectures were in Italian and Latin.”

Although homesickness was a factor, Fr Doherty said his four years in Rome were a “memorable experience”.

“The Propaganda College experience was very, very special,” he said.

“First, because it was so close to the Vatican and to be so close to Pius XII. For two years my room faced out onto the Vatican on the same level as the Pope’s room, so when the Pope came to the window to bless the people I could see him and at night time when I would be studying for exams there was the Pope’s light on in his window. It was very inspirational.”

Fr Doherty said studying alongside 300 other seminarians from 22 different countries was also a highlight.

He was ordained in Rome in the chapel of Propaganda College on December 21 1957 – with his Mum and Dad present – and then stayed a further six months before returning to Australia. He recalled that as his plane was flying over Geraldton on the way home an announcement was made that Pope Pius XII had died.

“So my first job when I got back to Adelaide was to say a Requiem Mass for the Pope in the Cathedral for all the Catholic school children.”

Fr Doherty’s first posting in the Archdiocese was to Woodville as an assistant priest. It was a “huge parish” with six churches and five schools and he paid tribute to the parish priest Monsignor Bill Russell who guided him for 12 years.

From there his ministry took him to Pinnaroo, Stirling, Strathalbyn, the Cathedral parish and finally Virginia, where he was the victim of a robbery at the church.

Bound by two men carrying a jemmy, Fr Doherty said he did not fear for his life during the 30-minute ordeal and described it as a “spiritual experience” in some ways.

“Because I thought that I could have been one of those robbers if I was born into a different family that had no knowledge of the Eucharist.”

Looking back on ministry as a priest, he said a feature for him was being able to hear the confessions of so many people.

“My experience of many hours of confessions in the Cathedral was probably the highlight of my 60 years of ministry.”

Although he ‘retired’ in 2010, Fr Doherty continues to celebrate the 8.45am Mass each Sunday at St Ann’s Chapel, Marion, and he is also chaplain to the residents of the Southern Cross Aged Care hostel on Marion Road. Members of the congregation, friends and family were among those who joined him for his diamond jubilee Mass at the Church of St John the Baptist on December 22.



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