When we take stock of all John did, the huge variety of ministries and roles and responsibilities he had over the 43 years of his life as a priest, it is quite breathtaking.
They included running youth retreats and parish missions, director of vocations, spiritual direction, adult education, parish priest, air force chaplaincy and ecumenical and interfaith work.
He was a member of archdiocesan advisory councils, involved in refugee associations, mentored younger Religious and for the past four years was a provincial consultor for the Passionists’ Holy Spirit Province and province bursar.
As parish priest of Blenheim, New Zealand, before his sudden death, the 68-year-old priest was one of the prime movers behind a vigil in Blenheim to honour the victims and families of the Christchurch mosque shootings.
John had a passion for mission –the mission of the Church to be the field hospital Pope Francis called us to be. Within that general mission he was passionate about the mission of the congregation to bring to people, whoever and wherever they are, the message of the Cross: this is how much God loves you.
All these ministries also reveal John’s extraordinary ability to make and keep friendships, relationships and connections. He never left behind a ministry and those he shared it with; he took those friendships and partnerships with him. He kept contact with an amazing number of people – lay people he worked for and with, parishioners, community friends and benefactors, Religious from many congregations, diocesan clergy, members of parliament, local councils and more. He was in contact with people from many other provinces that he’d met in his studies or at congregational meetings or seminars, or his work.
And in this too we see John’s passion for mission was always grounded in the down-to-earth and the local. He wanted to make Church happen at the local level – the parish, the local neighbourhood, the local church, the deanery, the diocese.
John was also wonderfully creative, always working on new ideas, new projects, reading widely, Googling madly, to know what was being tried elsewhere. And he was always game to try it out wherever he happened to be. He wasn’t shy at naming the elephant in the room, questioning the status quo, or afraid of making the difficult decisions.
It goes without saying that John was a tireless and dynamic worker. He never stopped, and perhaps that is what stopped him eventually. He was always thinking, doing planning, meeting, talking, organising, suggesting, offering and initiating. His capacity for work was amazing. He was always restless to be doing.
But underlying all of this extraordinary capacity was something much deeper and that was John’s love for Jesus crucified. In the end, that love for Jesus crucified is what makes everything else possible. John could never have done all he has done without that deep union with Jesus in his passion. The deep, deep love for Christ crucified is what holds everything else together. It is not something we Brothers talk about much but it is the core of who we are, and it was the heart of John’s sense of himself, his identity.
John was at a wonderful moment in his life before he passed away suddenly. All those years of work, the skills he’d developed, the experience he could fall back on, the recognition of his gifts and talents by cardinals and archbishops on the one hand and by the simplest, neediest people he had helped on the other, his learnings about life and himself – all of it was coming together. He had reached a lovely place in his life – he was ‘at home with himself’.
John was at the airport on his way to Rome when he suffered a heart attack and died.
We his Brothers, will miss all of his gifts and his energy. He leaves a huge hole in the province that we couldn’t fill even if we wanted to. But most of all we will miss John.
Taken from the eulogy by Fr Tom McDonough CP.Jump to next article