Last Friday I went to see in the nursing home here in Melbourne where he moved in a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t know that it was our last conversation and that he would go home to see the Lord Jesus a couple of hours later. However I do count that last visit as a blessing. We were talking about my ministry and at some stage he looked at me and said: “Doesn’t matter what, never take a day off on Sunday. You are a priest and you should always serve people.” What I understood straight away was that he was sharing with me the secret of his happy life. He wasn’t telling me what to do but he was revealing to me what made him joyful and happy during his long life given to Jesus and the Church. I was always so humbled that he still remembered my homilies which I delivered some time ago. He was such a great listener, always fascinated with spiritual matters.
In spite of his deteriorating health Fr John was still interested and concerned about wellbeing of others. His breviary and his Rosary never left his side. To the very end he was given a sharp mind which allowed him to remember in his prayers so many people.
Although it was hard for him to leave his favourite Sorrento I was overwhelmed by his remark in one of our conversations when he said: “If it is God’s will I am most happy to do it” and in his humble way he embraced this cross though he was missing his Oblate community so much. However the man who loved community life so much was blessed having his Oblates around him praying prayers for the dying in his final moments. He died peacefully surrounded by the people he loved because he loved Jesus. He was an Oblate who gave a hundred percent to Jesus and to the mission of evangelisation.
One of the last things he asked of us was to pray so that he could go home to Jesus. The man who served and prayed for so many was granted his desire. When once asked about his achievements he retorted: “They don’t matter. What does matter is that Jesus is merciful. I count on his mercy.”
Fr John died just two days shy of his 56th Anniversary of Ordination.