A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr Kevin Francis O’Donoghue sm

K O'DEulogy by  Fr Tim Duckworth sm 

In the Society of Mary there have been two Kevin O’Donoghues for as long as we all can remember and you could distinguish them by their cognomen – in our Kevin’s case he was always referred to as KODAK, given his significant skill with the camera, the other Kevin we know as Mozart.

This Kevin, Kevin FRANCIS O’Donoghue was 80 this year but he always seemed to be of a certain age even when you knew him years ago.  That I imagine was because he treated matters with the gravitas that behoved a man of his standing.  Kevin was no fool.  He always prepared a face to meet the faces that he met.  He had however a certain style that made him unique - I was going to say inimitable but the truth is that over time most of us ended up with a KOD saying or expression that tripped so delightfully from our tongues that a Kodak moment was something that we could all celebrate.

Kevin was famous for his expressions, for example the one he said to parents, “they might be Your Sons but they are Our Boys.”  He and I taught at St John’s Hastings together in the 80s and Kevin always said, in describing a typical summer day engaged in teaching boys from Tamatea and Flaxmere, that he was pounding the hot pavement beating back the barriers of ignorance.

Kevin was the Senior Master – in charge of discipline.  There was the Rector – and his deputy – those with elevated titles, but Kevin was in charge of the overall day- to-day running of the College.

For all that Kevin was a great and loyal comrade in the teaching profession.  He was encouraging to a cheeky know-it-all priest who arrived to share the poop deck with him at St John’s.  He had tales of yesteryear which he freely told.  He was always funny, always supportive and never really critical.

Kevin had for years watched the building of the new St Pat’s from the old grey mother.  But, ‘Like Moses in sight of the Promised Land,’ he was cruelly whisked away to get the boys of Hawkes Bay in line.

He enjoyed teaching,  he was fond of the parry and thrust of it.  But he was not simply a teacher but a Master of the Old Style – he was no newbie, chat-with-the-lads type of educator – he was one that made you learn by heart the verses of the Destruction of Sennacharib and could himself recite the great soliloquies of Shakespeare with majestic voice and manner.

No one that was taught by Kevin is in danger of forgetting him.  You could not.  He was not monochrome, he had so much colour that he was, as he might have said, a veritable kaleidoscopic panoply.  From all that I have said, though, you might think that Kevin was a self-promoter.  He wasn’t at all.  He derived a great deal of pleasure though from the knowledge that some who had sat at his feet had gone on to high places.  While Kevin approached their education as if he were a Don at Balliol College he was always a simple Marist teacher at heart.

His love for teaching was however far outshone by his love for his ministry as a priest and as a Marist. Kevin was always at prayers, always at Mass, always at community time – he was just one of those solid, stable presences that are required to make sure that tomorrow follows today just as predictably as today followed yesterday.

I remember well Kevin’s subtle disapproval of those of us who chose not to wear the clerical dog collar at the chalk face. Kevin, in editing the magazine, would refer to those who had the collar on in photos in the magazine as for example ‘Father DA Taylor’ and upstarts like me as ‘the Reverend T Duckworth.’

When he came to the end of his teaching career Kevin took on the onerous task of relieving in parishes up and down the country. He kept count.  At one stage he was heading to 60 parishes where he had worked.  This gave an amazing opportunity for Kevin to get to see the country and it gave a great opportunity for mostly diocesan priests to get a break, go on sabbatical or recover from bad health or surgery.  It’s not easy to live out of a suitcase but Kevin loved the job.  His jovial and friendly manner and his cuddly look made him easily acceptable to the parishes and though shy he made friends easily.

Kevin is perhaps best known for his camera work.  For years he submitted a photograph for every issue of the NZ Tablet and later when that closed he carried on in the Zealandia which eventually became the NZ Catholic. Kevin had an eye for a good shot, he might not have been a Cartier-Bresson or an Earl of Snowdon but he could take a great black and white and develop it perfectly himself.

Kevin, as God looks through his great telescopic lens at all that you have done he will indeed find you focussed and well developed ready for your rich reward.  May you there find happiness, peace and rest. 

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