My introduction to Fr John Wallis

John Wallis portrait of elderly man in black and white

Reflection by Catherine Carr, MSS Coordinator

Fr John Wallis was born on 11th June 1910 in the Victorian country town of Yea. On 9th June 2022, 112 years after his birth, at the Melbourne home of his niece Bernadette Wallis, several MSS women and staff gathered to acknowledge and celebrate his birth. As the only person at the table who had never met Fr John personally, I asked the sisters for memories and stories of this remarkable Catholic priest and his vision for the group of women who would become the Missionary Sisters of Service, founded in Tasmania, Australia, but which would have far-reaching impact.

This is what I learnt:

* Father John was ahead of his time in his approach to pastoral outreach of the Catholic Church into the community.
* He was interested in developing lay vocations in the Church well before Second Vatican Council
* He was often (though some say always) on the phone
* He devoured the documents of Vatican II and passionately taught the MSS about these new theological ideas
* He possessed a strong desire to reach out to, and teach disadvantaged Catholics in the Australian outback
* He was a determined man with a great sense of fun
* He appreciated and respected women in all his interactions
* He envisaged the strength in women going out beyond the convent walls into the ordinary lives of people
* He championed a modern congregation of women: ‘modern in point of time, modern in dress and modern in the ways and means of carrying out their apostolate’
* He was dedicated to his reading of the scriptures and he relished life.

We continue to give thanks for the life and influence of Fr John Wallis on our lives, and on the lives of so many.