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Monday, 27 February 2006
Page: 119

Mr BROADBENT (9:05 PM) —The headline in my local paper reads ‘Father Laurie Cusack, 78, dies after long illness’ and the article states:

A Sale Diocese priest who will be best remembered for his prolific letter writing to the secular and religious media died last month.

Fr Laurence Leo Cusack died at Nazareth House, Camberwell, on January 20 after a long illness which included many strokes.

Requiem Mass was concelebrated at St Mary’s Church, Cowes, on January 25 after which he was buried at Cowes.

Fr Cusack was born at Traralgon in 1927 and was educated at St Joseph’s Convent, Cowwarr, and St Patrick’s College, Sale.

He is remembered as a gifted student who was dux of his class and in 1944 worked for the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for a year studying bio-chemistry before entering Corpus Christi Seminary, Werribee, to study for the priesthood.

He was ordained by Bishop Richard Ryan at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sale, in 1952 alongside the late Bishop Noel Daly.

Fr Cusack served in Warragul, Sale, Morwell, Lakes Entrance, Neerim South, Newborough, Trafalgar, Bairnsdale and San Remo.

His appointment as parish priest at Newborough was a satisfying one as it was a new town with a migrant population nearing 80 per cent, many of them poor and facing hardships settling into their new country.

Always a passionate writer of letters to the editor in whatever parish he was serving, it was while he was at his last appointment at San Remo that his letter writing workload rapidly increased.

He waged a passionate battle against communism, euthanasia, pornography, abortion, homosexuality, compulsive gambling and the breakdown of community values.

It was while he was at San Remo that his health began to fade, suffering the first of many strokes. He was forced to step down as parish priest in 1995 but continued to live on in the former presbytery while his successor Fr John Phelan—

a good friend of mine—

went to live in a new presbytery at the new parish centre in Cowes.

Fr Cusack continued his incessant letter writing to the media, but as usual was always to the point, and never too long to render letters unlikely to be published.

In 1999 he moved into nursing care at Nazareth House and had been bed-ridden for the past few years. Fr Cusack celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood in 2002.

In a short statement, following his death, Fr Cusack’s family expressed their gratitude to Bishop Coffey, the priests of the diocese and all who were part of the tapestry of his life.

“In each person with whom he had contact, he appreciated the unique, God-given gift of life in that person, so each one was important to him.

Grateful thanks to all especially for the masses and prayers offered.”

Mr Speaker, I draw this very special man to your attention because for the whole of my political activity, federally since 1984, this man has been letter writing and letter writing and letter writing in his cause. I was especially impressed with a letter from a constituent to the local paper only recently where he told the story of Father Cusack. Father Cusack was a passionate anti-abortionist. You could not pick up a local paper anywhere in Gippsland where there was no letter from Father Cusack on abortion in that newspaper. The story was told in last week’s Pakenham-Berwick Gazette—or that is where I read it; it was probably in a lot of papers—about Father Cusack’s mother, who had a choice given to her by her doctors: ‘You can abort your son or you’re going to die,’ and she chose the risk of death to produce a son. That son was Father Cusack.