Monsignor Frank Marriott truly invested

Mons Hero2 350On 7 September, Monsignor Frank Marriott attended an investiture ceremony for the Queen’s Birthday Honours, where he received a Medal for the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the Catholic Church.  For Monsignor Marriott, the significance of the award is that the Catholic Church and priests in particular, can be recognised outside of the Church, for their contribution, not only to their own parishes, but also as a positive influence in broader Australian society.

The Order of Australia is the pre-eminent means of recognising outstanding achievement and contribution in the Australian honours system. It rewards people who have made a significant difference to their community, their country or at an international level. 

In her opening address, Hon. Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria said, “Experience tells me that many of you will want to divert the attention away from yourselves to those who have supported you in your work and in private. There are no doubt many of them, some with us in this room. And, although they have every reason to feel proud, today is about you. We are here to celebrate you. We want you to lean into that attention while you are with us at Government House.”

Indeed, for Mons. Frank Marriott, receiving such a prestigious award is something he sees as important, not for himself personally, but for what it proclaims to Australian society about the positive role and commitment of priests and people of faith in general.  “There are many other worthy priests,” he said.

Monsignor Marriott’s noted that his award was stamped by Queen Elizabeth II, “In her latter years, the Queen was a great example of leadership, and her Christmas messages were always full of faith,” he said.  “There is more to a human being than contributing to earthly society,” he said.  “As people of faith, we’re on about something different, something complimentary and this award acknowledges that.”It was Mons. Marriott’s work as co-founder and Chair of the Bendigo Interfaith Council which, being more public in the topical socio-political context of wider society, was the focus of his nomination for the award. Having said that, Mons. Marriott has made many meaningful contributions to local parish and community life. The contribution he thinks matters most is nurturing people in their faith life and helping parish communities to understand what the Church is trying to achieve, especially after the Second Vatican Council. 

Mons. Marriott has a gift of connecting people from many walks of life. “I’ve often been asked to ‘do something about something’, perhaps because of my profile as a priest in town, or perhaps because I played cricket!” he said.   

When he was Parish Priest of Heathcote, he was also co-founder and Chair of the Heathcote Citizens Action Committee, which worked hard to save Heathcote from toxic liquid junk being dumped at its fringe.  He recalls, “We’d demolished the old presbytery at Heathcote, and I was cleaning bricks in the backyard when local artist, Leonard French came up to me and said, ‘You have to do something about this!’  So, Mons. Marriott rallied the troups and they went on to save Heathcote from potential environmental disaster.

Monsignor Marriott says he very much believes in the involvement of laity in parish life.  In 1974, as Parish Priest of Heathcote, he appointed the first lay school principal and established the first Lay School Board in the Diocese. 

It was circumstances and his belief in the co-responsibility of laity that led to this.  When he was appointed Parish Priest of Heathcote by Bishop Bernard Stewart, he was told that the Nuns who operated the school would soon be leaving the town.  Bishop Stewart was resigned to the fact that there would be no Catholic School in Heathcote, but Mons. Marriott was determined to find a way to keep the school open.

He advertised for a school principal in the Australian and in the Age.  The first principal left after less than two years and the second principal was killed in an accident.  Despite early hurdles, Holy Rosary Primary School is a thriving school providing education and spiritual formation for Heathcote’s youngest generation.

In 2014 Mons. Marriott was Vicar-General of the Diocese. He received a phone call advising him that the City of Greater Bendigo had approved a planning permit for a mosque to be built in Bendigo and to expect some phone calls.  Monsignor advised disgruntled callers that Muslims were as entitled to worship as anyone else. 

The Interfaith Council in Shepparton had already been established and Mons. Peter Jeffrey was very involved in this.  So, after some consultation with fellow clergy and leaders of other faith groups in the Bendigo area Mons. Marriott worked to establish a Bendigo Interfaith Council, of which he became Chair. All of this was at the height of the highly publicised and animated Bendigo Mosque protests.

The Interfaith Council still operates today, although Mons. Marriott is no longer chair.  It fosters inter-faith dialogue and leads excursion to different places of worship.  “What all of these people have in common,” said Mons. Marriott, “is spirituality – a fundamental process of a human having contact with the non-Human, with God.”  For Monsignor Marriott, that is what it’s all about.  

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Incidental Note:

At the Investiture Ceremony Mons. Marriott was delighted to meet two fellow ‘’Marriotts’’, neither of them relatives.   “We had a lot of fun!” he said.

Catherine Marriott from Yarrawonga (originally Benalla), was awarded a Medal for her work in primary industry and regional development and John Marriott, from Point Lonsdale, awarded a medal for services to the sheep breeding industry.