Remembering Fr John Wallis 20 years on from his death

portrait of elderly man in black and white
03/08/2021

During his long life a cloak of gentleness gathered about him,
Yet he was ever ready to challenge, to stir, Yet equally to affirm,
encourage and trust That the Spirit was at work in everyone, everything, everywhere
– A man with a big heart.

On 3 August 2021, we mark 20 years since the death of our founder, Fr John Wallis. We give thanks for the life and love so freely given by Fr John to our community of women, and to the many priests, Religious and lay people he encountered in his pastoral work across Australia and beyond.

To help reflect on Fr John’s life and contribution, we’ve prepared a photo slideshow that can be viewed here. We also wanted to share these beautiful words of reflection written by Maria Kavanagh MSS (deceased) upon the death of Fr John (an excerpt is provided above).

Some background to Fr John

Fr John Corcoran Wallis was a newly ordained priest in the Archdiocese of Hobart, Tasmania (aged only 23 years) when he was sent on mission to visit families living on the isolated island of Bruny, off Tasmania’s south east coast. While there he met a mother, Mrs Kit Hawkins who asked: “Father, what about us? Why can’t we have Sisters to teach our children? Doesn’t anyone care about us in the bush?” That was in 1933. After 10 years of thinking, praying, talking and writing about the needs of people “out beyond”, he called together women who were willing to meet the challenge of pastoral work in isolated and rural areas.

In 1944 he founded our community of women (then known as the Home Missionary Sisters of our Lady). This mission would take us into the highways and byways of Australia and beyond. Our motto comes from the parable in the Gospel of Luke 14: 14-24. Like the people sent out in that parable, we were to seek out people wherever they lived, visit them in their homes, gather them in communities, support and empower them in their lives and in the faith education of their children. Our community was renamed the Missionary Sisters of Service in 1971.

Find out more about the history of Fr John, here.

Book cover for Dear Mother Dear Father John Corcoran WallisDear Mother Dear Father: Letters Home From John Corcoran Wallis 1927 – 1949

This book by Bernadette T Wallis MSS contains a series of letters written between 1927-1949 by Fr John Wallis to his parents and family, which give us a rare and precious insight into his life as a seminarian and young priest. Find out more…