By Anthony Barich
FATHER Kevin Long has built an extraordinary chapel community at St Thomas More College in his 10 years as Rector, University of Notre Dame founding Vice Chancellor Dr Peter Tannock said at his farewell Mass in the college chapel on March 1.
“He’s a terrier, he never gives up; and he just goes after things. He has very good judgement and is a very fine priest,” Dr Tannock recalled to The Record of Fr Kevin, who left St Thomas More College on March 8 to begin his six-year post as Rector of St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford.
Fr Kevin had built a strong following among the lay community and had put in a “tremendous effort” into the physical quality of the college’s chapel, gardens and facilities, Dr Tannock said at the farewell Mass.
Dr Tannock said that St Thomas More College always had a strong chapel community, but Fr Kevin built it into an “extraordinary community”, with rich liturgy during weekday Masses becoming an institution in itself, while Sunday Masses were often full to capacity.
Dr Tannock said that Fr Kevin, 54, has an extensive and impressive academic history and a record of strong liturgical practice that will stand him in good stead to lead St Charles’ Seminary, which the former UNDA Vice Chancellor said is “an immensely important position” for the future of the Church in WA and beyond.
“It was a very difficult decision by Archbishop Barry Hickey to ask Fr Kevin to leave St Thomas More College, as he’d been so successful there, its never been in better shape; but the Archbishop saw the seminary position as a higher priority for the Church for the long term in WA and I believe he’s correct,” Dr Tannock said.
“The general quality of life and programs at Thomas More College moved on rapidly under him.”
Dr Tannock said that Fr Kevin, a founding member of UNDA’s School of Theology – a role he said was crucial as a core subject at the university – “really gave a superb performance in leadership and management there. He brought it on in leaps and bounds in atmosphere and culture,” he said.
Its popularity, Dr Tannock said, was proven by the high level of demand for places.
In detailing Fr Kevin’s life of academic yearning and vocational concerns, Dr Tannock said the new St Charles’ Seminary Rector was a “gifted scholar and outstanding teacher” at UNDA, noted for his contribution to the core curriculum.
Educated by the Sisters of St Joseph and the Christian Brothers, Fr Kevin first entered Corpus Christ College in 1973 but left after four years to teach at the Mercy Sisters Academy of Mary Immaculate and completed a Bachelor of Theology in 1977.
Fr Kevin was ordained to the priesthood aged 27 by Archbishop Sir Frank Little of Melbourne at the parish of St Anthony in Alphington in Melbourne’s north-east, where he grew up with his family.
His mother Claire Long and his brother and sister-in-law also travelled from Melbourne for the farewell Mass at the St Thomas More College Chapel.
He became interested in ecumenical affairs and received a Masters Degree in 1994 from the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College in Dublin. He returned to Perth to undertake a PhD in history at the University of WA, staying at St Thomas More College – the beginning of a 20-year stint at the college.
He was appointed vice-Rector of the college under Fr Tim Quinlan in 1993, and when the Jesuits withdrew from the college, Archbishop Hickey, chairman of the college Council, appointed him temporary Rector then Rector of the college in 2000. He was a founding member of UNDA’s School of Theology at Notre Dame, and became a “much admired and followed lecturer” specialising in Church history, Dr Tannock said.
“He was a very popular lecturer, and being a lecturer in Notre Dame’s core curriculum is very challenging. It has to be very well taught so that it’s compulsory and very credible. He goes to the seminary at a relatively youthful age and full of beans.
“I think he’ll be a great success there,” Dr Tannock said.”
At the Mass for Fr Kevin’s farewell, Archbishop Hickey also acknowledged Claudia O’Malley, who assisted Fr Long for many years as sacristern and liturgical coordinator. He was also heavily involved in ecumenism, Dr Tannock said – a point proven by the presence of an Anglican bishop and leaders of Eastern Rite churches at the farewell Mass and representatives of other UWA colleges.
“He does things with a bit of style,” Dr Tannock said.