Unconventional priest was passionate about faith, music

Hospitable hermit

Fr Brian Hingerty was a singular figure. He remained a priest throughout his life, though not a conventionally practising one. Tall and slender, his physical appearance was once teasingly compared to an exclamation mark. He certainly made an impression.

Brian Edward Hingerty, priest and teacher, 1937-2016

- Fairfax Media

Fr Hingerty showed an enigmatic duality: Literally a hermit, while professionally a devoted sharer, carer, and teacher. Socially, Brian was quietly jovial; his core was adamantine, wholly encased in gentleness.

"I thought of him as my good brother," says a friend who doubts that te priest reciprocated in quite the same terms. He remained a priest, though not a conventionally practising one.

His most public moment was both shared and life-changing. As a Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest teaching at Canberra's Daramalan College, he was one of four colleagues who published in The Canberra Times in 1968 a respectful and carefully reasoned letter in response to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae, which forbade the contraceptive pill to Catholics.

The Archbishop promptly withdrew the licences of the signatories to officiate as priests in the diocese. Fr Hingerty, under instruction from his religious superior, went to live with the Dominican friars at John XXIII College at ANU, enrolling in a bachelor of arts degree.

This change of status enabled Fr Hingerty to begin his most important on-campus activity, as a leading member of the ANU Choral Society (SCUNA). As the host choir's president, he convened the InterVarsity Choral Festival in 1971 when sopranos Joan Carden and Eleanor Houston led the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and combined choir under Ernest Llewellyn in Mozart's Great Mass in C Minor.

He was SCUNA's conductor in 1972-77 and 1987-88. He was subsequently made a life member.

Fr Hingerty left the MSC order and taught music variously at Canberra Grammar and Marist College. At Canberra Girls Grammar, he was head of music from 1974 to 1988, the pinnacle of a period of 22 years' teaching at the school. He would have cherished the sobriquet "amateur" - etymologically, a lover of music. His influence on young people's enjoyment and appreciation of music was as profound as it was far-reaching.

His sense of the ridiculous is exemplified in the poster for the InterVarsity Choral Festival of 1977, at which he was conductor. The television series Monty Python's Flying Circus had been broadcast between 1969 and 1974. Fr Hingerty chose to conduct Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, inspiring the wittiest poster yet seen for a major choral masterpiece: Monteverdi's Flying Vespers.


Faith, music and animals: the three great loves of priest Brian Hingerty

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