Joseph Grogan’s volunteering spirit is ‘second nature’ thanks to his dad’s inspiring journey
Volunteering spirit: 2015 Volunteer of the Year Joseph Grogan at Lourdes, France two years ago with the Order of Malta.
Article originally published in the Catholic Leader, 5 September
JOSEPH Grogan said his dad often paraphrased US President John F Kennedy – “ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church”.
It was a sentiment Joe carried with him his whole life.
“My dad, John, forfeited his AFL potential when he felt called to become a lay Catholic missionary, teaching with PALMS in Australia, Kiribati and Nauru,” Mr Grogan said.
“Inspired by dad, Church volunteering is second nature for my sisters Alice and Caroline and me.”
He said he felt closer to Christ by striving to live the spirit of Matthew 25:40, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, this you do unto Me”.
Mr Grogan said Catholic volunteering imbued his life with “deeper meaning, lasting joy and flourishing friendships”.
“Volunteering through the Catholic Church has helped me to grow immensely, while sharing meaningful experiences with diverse people,” he said.
His passion for volunteering led him to win Volunteer of the Year at The Catholic Leader Awards 2015.
He said he was sincerely surprised, humbled and grateful to receive the award.
“I only regret that I was so astonished that I neglected to publicly thank my father John, whose love and Catholic missionary journey inspires the best in me and my sisters,” he said.
Mr Grogan continues to volunteer and webcast Masses at St Stephen’s Cathedral parish while he follows his Masters in Screenwriting with a Doctoral scholarship at Griffith Film School.
“My family and friends continue to support the Order of Malta’s annual Coats for the Homeless project,” Mr Grogan said.
“The Order provides warm, specially-designed coats to people in need.
“We also accompany Rosies to engage our friends living on the street.”
Pilgrimage travels have developed a broad base for his faith life too.
Mr Grogan journeyed to World Youth Day 2016 in Poland and has completed two pilgrimages to Lourdes with the Order of Malta in 2017 and 2018.
“My family cherishes our Lourdes experience, serving our Malades (sick, elderly, infirmed) and sharing the communal spirit,” he said.
“My research also inspired me to revisit my Kiribati village birthplace in 2018 and 2019.
“My family and our friend Shawn Pang appreciated witnessing the inspirational ministry of the Catholic Church in the pacific.”
He said he was a small piece of an inherited jigsaw of his family’s Catholic faith.
His paternal grandparents were Irish-Australians who he said never missed a Sunday Mass.
As for his Kiribati roots, he said his grandfather Te Kataba, who descended from the warrior chieftain Kokoria, taught him the spirit of “noblesse oblige” – privilege entailed responsibility.
“My Kiribati grandfather was a Catholic convert who became chairperson of the Maneaba (Sacred meeting place),” Mr Grogan said.
“My grandfather’s clan includes both the founding President of Kiribati and a relative who presented the Kiribati flag to the British Royal Family in Westminster Abbey during Kiribati Independence.
“Yet, growing up with my father’s missionary journey, I have witnessed and survived severe poverty in villages with high infant mortality rates.
“I have overcome past trauma and grown to appreciate how intertwined my family and community is with my Catholic faith.”
Having such a volunteering fervour, he said he often struggled to say no to church friends when he was over-extended.
But prayer, he said, grounded him again and refined his focus on what mattered most in life.
Looking to the future, Mr Grogan said the Plenary Council 2020 was on his mind, offering “dynamic dialogue, healing and promise” to a polarised culture.
“I hope to continue serving Christ through my home parish of St Stephen’s Cathedral and deepening my devotion to service of the poor and sick and defence of the faith,” Mr Grogan said.