Golden jubilee year for Fr John McCall OSA
|Fr John McCall OSA|
By Virginia Knight, Catholic Outlook, May 2012
In February this year, Fr John McCall OSA celebrated his Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving for 50 years of priesthood. Fr John is Spiritual Director and Prior at the Augustinian Centre for Spirituality in Greystanes.
At the conclusion of Mass, the Provincial Fr Tony Banks OSA spoke with gratitude of Fr John’s qualities, especially of his dedication to the apostolate and his quiet ability to strengthen the fraternal bonds within the Augustinian community.
During a celebratory lunch, the common room of Fr John Stone friary at Greystanes was filled to capacity with Fr John’s siblings and older relatives, lifelong friends, and most of the Augustinian friars and seminarians from the Sydney area. “We had 40 people in here and it was wonderful to see my brothers and sister,” he said.
Fr John recalled that he was only nine when he was evacuated from Singapore during the bombing of the island in World War II. With his mother and siblings he escaped on the Centaur before the Japanese invaded.
Left behind, his father became a POW in Changi. “It was a significant change in my life,” Fr John said. “We had to leave Dad and, as the eldest, I became more responsible for my brothers and sisters at a very young age.”
He spent the years that followed in various boarding schools before the family came to Australia and settled in Manly Vale in 1949. Yet despite an unsettled early life, what distinguishes Fr John today is an aura of peace.
That gentle dignity was apparent as he discussed his life as an educator in schools and seminaries and now the Augustinian Centre for Spirituality in Greystanes.
“Coming from a loving family I realised at an early age that I, like everyone else, had an infinite capacity for loving and that my God was the one who could fill that.
"St Augustine’s famous quote spoke to me, ‘You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless till they rest in you.’ This attracted me and drew me into His service.”
However a career in education beckoned and after completing his studies he taught in state primary schools before joining the Augustinian Order in October 1955.
“There was no thought of being a priest till I was 20. Then I had to work off my scholarship obligations to do three years’ teaching with the Department of Education before I was free to enter the Augustinians.
“I found the Augustinians to be very human, real, spiritual and welcoming, and involved in education, a vocation I could continue to contribute to.”
Fr John loved teaching but after 30 years he said he was running out of energy and needed to do something different.
In 1993, he worked with the novitiates in Australia and the US as Director of Formation for the Augustinian Australian province.
During a sabbatical he took the opportunity to pursue further study and returned to Chicago to study spiritual direction and supervision.
Two years later he came back to Australia filled with energy and a new direction and founded the spirituality centre at Greystanes with the assistance of Fr Dave Austin OSA.
As Spiritual Director and Prior of the community, Fr John provides guidance in the area of spirituality and directed retreat work for lay people, religious and priests. “These are people who are searching for God, or those who would like to grow closer to God,” he said.
His role is not one of counsellor but as a companion on the journey, assisting those who come to the centre to find their own spiritual direction.
“The role of the Spiritual Director is not to directly tell anyone anything, but to help them discover what is going on in themselves and to value that,” he said.
“Spiritual direction is for those who want to grow as a person. They are often people who overwork and lose the balance in their life. The sessions help them to evaluate how this has occurred, how to restore the balance and empower them with the sense of how to maintain this and care for themselves spiritually.
Many people who come to the centre are often in leadership roles. “If you work as a counsellor you need to have someone to talk to. If you work in ministry you should have a mentor, to reflect on what is significant spiritually in your life.”
Fr John said he finds spiritual fulfilment in doing God’s will, loving and caring and speaking to people in His name, and sharing his love for God with them.
His favourite piece of scripture is from Acts 3, “Silver and gold I have not, what I have I give you, in the name of Jesus”. He feels it encapsulates his priesthood. “I don’t have anything of my own to give, but I can give you Christ. That is what I feel the priesthood is about.”
Come Holy Spirit – Pentecost 2012
Reflection Afternoon with Fr John McCall OSA
Sunday 20 May from 2pm-5pm
Longing for God’s gift of Love to us and seeking it in prayer. This gift is given to us personally to nourish our daily life, and encourage us on our journey to God. Bookings or inquiries tel (02) 9896 6794, firstname.lastname@example.org
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