Rev Fr Gerard Dowling OAM DE (SPC 1949-50)
December 4, 2023
We are extremely saddened to share the passing of Old Collegian and inducted Legend Rev Fr Gerard Dowling OAM DE (SPC 1949-50) on 26 November 2023, aged 91 years.
Fr Dowling was a passionate Old Collegian who took every opportunity to attend College and Old Collegians’ events, including our Annual Celebration Dinner just a week prior to his passing.
Fr Dowling was a prolific writer, radio host and counsellor and was renowned for his radio program on 3UZ/RSN which ran for 50 years.
He was the cornerstone of broadcasting in Melbourne and a popular radio host for half a century.
He and his twin sister Mary were born in Essendon in 1932. Gerard studied at St Bernard’s College, Essendon and then St Patrick’s College, in Ballarat in 1949, matriculating in 1950.
During his time at St Patrick’s, Gerard was named a prefect and was an active member of the school, as part of the Holy Name Society executive, Sodality of Our Lady, St Vincent de Paul Conference as well as an active member of the public speaking, rowing and football programs.
His memories of SPC revolved around “the wonderful spirit and friendliness” and he reflected that his time at St Patrick’s College had aided his “development as a rounded Christian person who cared about others”.
Fr Dowling was ordained a priest on 27 July 1958 and served as assistance priest at Burwood and Altona between 1959-61. He completed social work and counselling studies at the University Melbourne in 1963 and joined Catholic Care in 1963.
From 1973, Fr Dowling hosted a regular spot on RSN 927 AM (formerly 3UZ) every Sunday from 10pm to midnight called The Family Counsellor. It is the longest running show of its kind in Australia.
Fr Dowling was also Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral Melbourne between 1999-2003.
Through his radio work especially, Fr Dowling has been credited with saving the lives of many people and brought much comfort to thousands of others.
A special tribute program was aired during his normal radio timeslot the week after his passing in heartfelt remembrance.
In heartfelt tributes, mourners remembered Fr Dowling “with his soothing voice he gave hope and friendship to the lonely and troubled”.
He was also remembered as a “true Paddy boy who lived the charisma of Edmund Rice”.
Fr Dowling was inducted as a College Legend in 2002 and he received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) on Australia Day, 2006, in recognition of service to the community, particularly in the field of family welfare.
Fr Gerard was also a life member, club historian and passionate AFL fan of the North Melbourne Football Club. Fr Dowling was the author of ‘The North Story’, which charted the club’s history from humble beginnings in 1869 to the success of the 1970s.
He was also a regular fixture at North Melbourne home games well into his later years.
In hi capacity as a Catholic priest, he officiated at countless weddings, funerals and baptisms for North Melbourne players, staff and supporters over many years.
He enjoyed close relationships with many North Melbourne figures, especially through the 1960-80s, and was known to write personal letters to players at the conclusion of each season.
North Melbourne’s AFLW players honoured Fr Dowling’s passing by wearing black armbands in the team’s stirring preliminary final win over Adelaide recently.
A Requiem Mass for Fr Dowling was held at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne on Thursday 7 December, with a huge crowd attending to mourn the loss of Fr Dowling. To watch a video of the funeral service, please click here