Monday, 16 June 2014
Heriot, Father Maurice Bernard 'Lou'
Earlier this year, the community of East Bentleigh lost a great man. Father Maurice Bernard Heriot—or 'Lou', as he was affectionately known—passed away after a long battle with illness. For 20 years, Father Heriot was the parish priest at St Peter's Church in East Bentleigh. He began training as a priest in 1944 and was ordained by Archbishop Mannix in 1951. A priest for 63 years, Lou served at many parishes, including St Peter and St Paul's in South Melbourne for four years.
It was in 1973 that the respected father Dan Coakley passed away, leaving big shoes to be filled. Lou was chosen for the task and he became parish priest at St Peter's in September that year. The one and only Father Bob Maguire succeeded Lou at South Melbourne and they remained great mates right up until Lou's sad passing. Lou and Bob shared one very special quality: they were people's priests. They understood and related to their parishioners, and they did not care much for the strict hierarchy of the church. At his service, attended by thousands of people, Father Michael Sierakowski quipped to Archbishop Denis Hart: 'He liked authority, didn't he!'
Father Lou loved riding his bicycle around East Bentleigh, visiting parishioners and local residents. He would visit families of newly enrolled students at St Peter's Primary School to welcome them to what is a wonderful community. One of my staff, who is not Roman Catholic, recalls how Father Heriot put in extra effort to welcome him and his family to the St Peter's community when he was enrolled at the school. Lou would often visit on his bike because he wanted everyone in that community, Catholic or not, to feel welcome at St Peter's. People with problems big or small would go to Father Heriot for advice, which he willingly gave. To the local community, he was a role model, a mentor and a friend.
In 1993, it was decided by the church hierarchy, not by Lou, that Father Heriot was getting on in years and would be transferred to the smaller parish of St Finbar's in East Brighton, where he remained until 2009. Having spent 20 years at St Peter's, Centre Road, East Bentleigh, and 16 years at St Finbar's, Centre Road, East Brighton, he was often referred to as the 'Centre Road priest'. He immediately embraced the parish at St Finbar's, and in turn was embraced by those parishioners. He continued visiting local people on his trademark bicycle for many years.
He retired from St Finbarr's in 2009. In semiretirement, he lived in Mornington, but he was still as busy as ever, assisting parishes, writing a book about his life and spending time with his family. Last Christmas, Lou was too unwell to be with his family on Christmas day but blessed the table over the phone, a poignant and special moment. He was a priest who embodied Christ's message of love, compassion and forgiveness. He gave so much of himself to the people he served. Father Lou Heriot died on Good Friday. Vale, Father Heriot.