In memory of Fr John Naughton

 

Eulogy by Monsignor Frank Marriott 9 September 2020

A little “disclosure” before we start; I bring a little “baggage” to this reflection.

The Marriott family lived in Knight Street, Shepparton. Dad and Mum lived in Shepparton after their marriage in 1934, just a few months after John was born. Both sets of parents had a friendship dating beyond 1934, but deepened a little whilst John and I were at Assumption. John's younger brothers, Peter and Michael followed at the same school.Fr Naughton B&W350

Obviously, our parents made a great effort in the late 50s to visit us at St Francis Xavier’s Seminary in Adelaide. A huge trip in those days. Friendships continued.

So, I guess that I am both a little biased but very privileged to reflect with you today.

There is a line in the reading from Hebrews, “Since he is, in himself, weak in many ways ...”

Ill health dogged the former national serviceman both in the seminary and in his active years of priesthood.
John suffered in the seminary – from a none-too-flash culinary diet. Food in the late 50s was not a priority and it did affect his physical condition.

During the active priesthood years he had several periods of sick leave – but he overcame these hurdles and gave many years of sterling service particularly to full-time chaplain to Mt Alvernia Hospital, Bendigo from 1989-2009 … living at St Kilian’s. People will remember his devotion to that challenging role.

That reading continues by reminding us that because “he is able to be gentle ..."
Several of his classmates, in their recent words to me, remarked that they remember John for his friendly approach to the young seminarians and generosity to them. One used the word ‘gentle’.

Those characteristics came forth in that chaplaincy role.

John was appointed on several occasions to St Kilian’s. He began there in 1965 – and, for many years was the official photographer during the weeks of clergy retreat at La Verna, Kew, not snapping we priests listening attentively to the preacher (or dozing off), but updating on film the registers of Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage for all the parishes. It was quite a process, the cause of some mirth, but it was a major operation for the Diocesan Archives. John also designed and assembled new diocesan registers.

In later years, John was master of hospitality at St Kilian’s on Friday nights. We had established “fish and chips” on Friday. A threefold exercise – evening prayer of the church, scripture discussion for Sunday, and then fish and chips and a drink.

Regular as clockwork, John would arrive around 6.25, glass full of ice in hand, and announce, “dinner is served.” Off we would troop! All had been organised.

“No one chooses for himself the honour of being a “high priest.”

John sought to follow the call, a little later in life than some in those days. He would never claim to be a great scholar but, after his national service, he went to St Stanislaus College in Bathurst to brush up on his Latin, then off to Adelaide and ordained a month or so before his 30th birthday.

Dogged, he answered the call and, through thick and thin, he remained faithful. His race was more a steeplechase than on the flat but he ran the distance; he kept the faith and we believe that the merciful Lord will award him with the “prize of victory.”

For some time, in later years, John was able to assist the Ave Maria community with daily Mass. They, in turn, have cared for him grandly in recent months. We thank the community.

When we ponder the call of the Beatitudes, our gospel today, we perhaps take breath – can we do all that? Sometimes it’s best to aim for one! I think that John, in so many ways, needs to be remembered as one befitting, “Happy the Gentle.”

Eighty-six years on earth, fifty-six years as a priest of Sandhurst, a priest of the Merciful and Good Lord!

We say thanks John for your contribution: to your calling, people and family … to Peter and Carmel, to Michael and Pauline and families. Thank you for caring for your brother so much in these years. Thanks for giving us John.

May he rest in peace!

 

Eulogy by Peter Naughton 9 September 2020

To anyone who can join us on the live-streaming, I welcome you all and appreciate it.

We are a very small group, but as  Fr John’s family and this very special handful of his brother priests, we sincerely appreciate the respect and the disappointment of all those who would normally have been with us today to celebrate Fr John’s life.  For obvious reasons that's not possible. Fr Naughton MailChimp

 It’s obviously not possible, so lucky we are able to do it as well as we are.

Bishop Bernie Stewart was the main influence in Fr John becoming a priest and, without his encouragement and support, I believe John would have not been ordained. So, I’m going to start there and touch on John’s ordination in 1965 first.

It was such an important event for our whole family; it introduced us not only to the importance that the church places on the ordaining of a priest and the significance and the sacrament and the wonderful ceremony and celebration that it presents. It was the beginning of a whole new era and experience for all our family and friends.

 

Fr John was ordained in time to marry Michael and Pauline in April 1966, then Carmel and myself in the December. And, of course, this started a long progression of baptisms, marriages, Masses for special occasions and, of course, funerals, etc.

Dad’s was our major funeral in 1967. And of course, the sadness was there but, like John’s ordination, the impressive ceremony with the Bishop and priest celebrating his life, it was something incredibly special.

John was always very conscious and respectful of how important family and family gatherings are. He would never miss Christmas and Easter; and for most months he would manage to make it home for a Sunday lunch with Mum and the family. And when John introduced home Masses to our family these were such a special, personal and unique experience that everyone appreciated.

John was born at Uno Hospital in Corio Street, here our St Brendan’s Parish. Mum and Dad lived in Barker Avenue; that’s the first street East of  St Brendan’s Church and the school complex.

Mum introduced John, and then me, and Michael later on. Mum introduced us all to the Church, the Mass, the Rosary, the sacraments, nine months before we were born. So, we’ve always been part of the St Brendan’s family. All our education was with the nuns and the brothers and we have always appreciated that special privilege.

John did have one year at Assumption College in 1950. A few days ago, I had a great phone call from an old classmate and also a brother priest of the Sandhurst Diocese, Fr John Ryan. Fr John Ryan has spent a lot of his time in the Canberra area doing a special ministry.  He was so disappointed and apologetic, like so many others, that he couldn’t be here with us today.

In 1951 and 1952 John went back to St Colman’s part time to try and catch up on some of the schooling he had missed.

He also did his national service training which, back then, was compulsory. Although it was very inconvenient, John and a good mate Greg Phelan were able to share their ‘Nasho” time together and make the most of the experience.

John then went to work at a warehouse in Melbourne for twelve months, but he was still keen to test his vocation out. So, for 1956 Bishop Stewart organised for him to attend St Stanislaus College in Bathurst in NSW, to see if he could sort of bridge the gap.

Dad had an Uncle Hugh Naughton living in Sydney. Dad was named after him, but although Dad knew him well enough, our families had never met.

Aunty Anne and daughters Marie and Eileen made up that family. The girls were a bit older than John but were not married at that time. John renewed and grew that relationship because he had to travel by train to Sydney to get to Bathurst, so going and coming, he would always spend a few days with them. And this grew into a very special relationship over the years. We were able to share in almost every important celebration.

John, being an intending seminarian, they spoiled him rotten and of course, being a Naughton, he milked it for all it was worth. But of course, it's his brother talking.

They’ve all gone to God now – but the wonderful experiences and memories - it’s amazing what they created.

And perhaps I can mention that this brother of his came out of a similar mould. My wife Carmel and I had a sort of two-year courtship, mostly by letter, because she lived in Cairns. Carmel and her girlfriends spent six months working in NZ in 1966, they came back to Shepparton for two weeks to finish off their holiday. Carmel ended up staying a month and we had decided to get engaged.  At that point I hadn’t even met any of her family or relatives; they were all up in Cairns. So, I worked out that it would have to be a pretty good investment if I took Fr John to Cairns for a ten-day holiday to front up and meet them all. And it worked a treat. This new young Catholic priest got all the attention and no questions were asked.

I had another great phone conversation with Sr Stella, a Good Samaritan nun who knew and worked with John when he was chaplain at Mt Alvernia in Bendigo. She always remembered his birthday and phoned me the Thursday a couple of weeks ago, John had just turned 86. It was just four days before he died.

She had such a glowing memory of the immaculate way Fr John would always present and carry out his duties, ministering to the sick and the dying. Then I got a great little experience, when Fr Joe was anointing John on the following Monday morning. There were only three of us there, Fr Joe was in the middle of the prayers and I got this clear impression of the hundreds of times that Sr Stella would have been beside John while he was ministering to other needy patients. It was a wonderful insight that she had created.

 

John had a serious vomiting attack a couple of weeks ago (just) before he died. And was admitted to hospital for a couple of days. I could visit him in hospital ok, but with the restrictions I hadn’t been able to visit him in the hostel for nearly a month. But Ave Maria had just begun able to organise bookings for window visits between a resident and a family member. At an arranged time, they would wheel-chair residents to the old entrance area and give them a loud-speaker phone, so you could ring the number from the other side of the glass, then sit there and visit.

They organised this for John on his birthday, the 27th of August and John handled it very well. For fifteen minutes, he actually seemed better than the last few times that we’d been able to bring him to our unit for coffee.

We tried to organise another one for the Saturday morning, like our normal coffee time, but he wasn’t well enough, and he couldn’t get out of bed.

Talking birthdays, I must mention and thank Bishop Les Tomlinson for the effort he always made to contact Fr John on their birthday. They shared the same date. I won’t tell you how old Bishop Les is, but he’s nine years younger than John.

John had a good priestly life. But since his 80s his health started to deteriorate. He had a lot of treatment for bipolar and depression and of course, the dementia was taking over in more recent years.

I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Paul O’Dwyer for not putting him back in hospital and organising the staff at Ave Maria to keep him so comfortable and relaxed in his own home. They did a wonderful job and we are so appreciative of everyone who has supported Fr John through his eleven years at Ave Maria Hostel.

Michael and Pauline were able to spend a couple of hours with John on Tuesday, as did Carmel and I. Under the circumstances and being in the middle of the night, I was able to be with him at the end, or should I say at the beginning. 

Fr John, God bless and thanks.

 

If you would like to view Fr John's Funeral Mass, please click here.

Upcoming Events

22 Oct
Saint John Paul II
Date 22.10.2020
25 Oct
28 Oct
Saints Simon and Jude
Date 28.10.2020
1 Nov
ALL SAINTS
Date 01.11.2020