Singing from the same hymn sheet

The Mahoney family has spent years making children happy by performing pantomime on stage, but it is a lifelong commitment to community service that has earned them the greatest applause.

 “My first memory of fundraising is from when I was a kindergarten student at St John’s Primary School in Lambton, and the Mercy nuns sent me home with a cardboard box (in aid of Caritas’ Project Compassion),” said father, Phil Mahoney.

 The lesson in compassion and gratitude clearly worked - in November last year Phil was awarded the honour of Freeman of the City of Newcastle, in recognition of his numerous contributions to charity, entertainment and even the meat industry.

Over the years, Phil has mentored many rising musicians including home-grown international country music star Morgan Evans and Derek Redfern of Young Talent Time fame; he was even the first person to ever introduce The Wiggles on stage.

Yet despite a lifetime of rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, it was his early years spent with his mum and the Sisters of Mercy he cites as his biggest inspiration.

“My mum had a heart of gold. Her faith drove her to always help others in need, despite never having much money of her own and eight children to care for,” said Phil.

“We always had extras around the dinner table.”

“I would go to church with mum in Lambton and we would also pray The Memorare in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary at home,” Phil said.

The statue, a family heirloom first owned by Phil’s great-grandmother, was bought to Australia from Ireland in the 1800s and has been passed down through generations via the youngest sibling.

Phil and his wife Donna have four adult children, all of whom have followed in their parents’ footsteps by embracing a life focused on helping others and giving back to the community.

Phil recently gifted the Virgin Mary statue to his youngest child, Rose-Marie, a winner of the Diocese’s Bishop’s

Award, announced earlier this month.

“Growing up I would always see Dad praying to the statue and I’m now grateful to be responsible for it,” Rose-Marie said.

Like her father, who has raised funds for Calvary Mater Newcastle’s oncology clinic, Camp Quality, Australian Heart Foundation, No Kids Hungry Australia, Black Dog Institute, Melanoma Institute, and Foster Carers Association, Rose-Marie lives a life of service.


As well as working for St Nicholas Early Education, she regularly volunteers at Mum’s Cottage in Holmesville, is on the Parish Pastoral Council and formerly took part in the Diocese’s Pastoral Placement Program.

“As a Church, I believe we have the answers if we come together as a community who generously uses their gifts to warmly welcome and outreach to all, especially those in the minority,” Rose-Marie said.

Following in the footsteps of familial generations before them, this incarnation of the Mahoney family continues to support each other to know and use their unique gifts to help others, including those less fortunate than themselves.

“Family is everything,” Donna said. “But as individuals, it is important that you share the love that you experience within your family to help others in the community and ensure no one is left behind.”

As the matriarch of the family, Donna has led by example. Fittingly, she has received a NSW Government Service Medal for her selfless care, which came to the fore during the 2007 Hunter and Central Coast (Pashbulker) storms.

Phil and Donna’s sons are also well-regarded for their community work, with their eldest son Justin receiving an Emmaus Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Diocese in 2019. Meanwhile, their second-eldest son, Shannon, was awarded a National Australia Day Council medal in 2021 for his fundraising efforts for breast cancer research. Not to be outdone, their youngest son Curtis, a former nurse who is now employed by MacKillop Parish in Charlestown, has committed himself to strengthening the community of faithful.

“Since starting in the role, I have been focusing on building a sense of community by bringing people together outside the four walls of the Church,” Curtis said. “I believe that by knowing each other outside of the pews we can strengthen our relationship with each other, and God.”

So while the COVID-19 pandemic ended the Magic Mahoney’s on-stage performances, they are still singing from the same hymn sheet, with the family tradition of building connections and serving others plain for all to see.


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Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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