Vale Fr John Ware

FrJohnWare 350
It was fitting that Fr John’s Funeral Mass be at St Mary’s in Rutherglen. Fr John was once quoted in the Free Press (Corowa) saying, “I’ve never spent more time in my life anywhere as long as I have in Rutherglen, so the town and this parish hold a special significance to me.”

Fr John’s 60th Jubilee, 25-year anniversary as parish priest of Rutherglen and retirement were all celebrated at St Mary’s on 7 December 2014. “The day is actually our annual Christmas meeting with the parish; it just so happens it coincides with a few other things,” said Fr John about the occasion, revealing his well-known self-deprecating humour to the Corowa Free Press adding, “As long as Jonesy (Tony Jones) has the pig (on the spit) everyone will turn up and have a great day.”

Fr John was born and raised in Shepparton, one of four children to Margaret and Harold. He is survived by his younger brother of two years, Gerald. The Ware family originated from Shepparton and Fr John Ware is connected to families throughout the Diocese including Monsignor Peter Jeffrey and the Curtain/Lalor families whose members are active in local communities and parishes including Shepparton, Bendigo, Eaglehawk, Wodonga and Wangaratta.

Fr John’s primary school years were spent with the Sisters of Mercy in Shepparton. He then boarded at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat, studied at Corpus Christi College in Werribbee (1948-1951) and then Propaganda College in Rome (1951-1955), where he graduated with a Licentiate of Theology.

Fr John was ordained a Priest at the chapel of Propaganda College in Rome on 7 December 1954. He was one of 45 priests ordained at his Ordination Mass and only six of these priests were Australian. “You’d talk to someone about Don Bradman or Collingwood and they’d not have a clue what you were on about,” said Fr John when recollecting the occasion to family many years later.

The Chancery’s Sally Holmes, a relative of Fr John, recently chatted with Fr John about many aspects of his life as he showed her family photographs. We share some of this with you, so that you have the opportunity to hear about Fr John’s life in his words.

FrJohnWare Family Rome 1955Referring to a photograph of himself with his parents at St Peter’s Basilica on 7 December 1954, the day of his ordination, Fr John said

"I was ordained a priest in Rome. Mum and Dad came over for my ordination and so did my little brother Gerald. They came over during the holidays; they had to wait for the ordination. The only way I could get out of the college was if my parents came. My uncle left me 1000 quid, so I bought a motor car. I couldn’t garage it in Rome; there’s no room for cars in Rome.

So Mum, Dad and my little brother came over to Rome on the boat; it took three months. That was the start of the holidays, so we went and got my car and drove through England, Germany, through Bonne. It was 1954, nine years after the war had ended. After the war, obviously their policy was to leave the mess till last. Build the new factories, the new everything, the latest, and then, when you’ve done all that, fix up the mess. And you drive through these lovely old cities, and in the middle of the city was just rubble, like in Cologne, as far as you could see, in the middle where the town was, was just rubble. And that’s what I do in my kitchen. You come and have a look sometime!  But it was terrific, my Mum and Dad coming over there."


FrJohnWare Progaganda
Referring to a photograph of himself blessing his father (Harold Ware)  at Propaganda College after his Ordination to the Priesthood on 7 December 1954.

"I went to Rome in 1951 and was there for four years. It was an opportunity, a tremendous experience and I’m very grateful for it. I used to look up and see the Comet, a delta wing aeroplane, back in the days when air travel was nothing, and this Comet was the latest thing. It was hardly moving." 

"How I loved to dream of going home. When I was in Rome, I never saw my parents for four years. You never got out, never spoke to them. I had a letter every week. They were different times back then."

"My older brother was married in Melbourne. I wasn’t around when he got married; I was studying at Propaganda College in Rome for four years. Propaganda is a Latin word, to propagate. The English word has a different meaning."










FrWare MonsThomasReferring to a photograph of himself and Monsignor Frank Thomas in 1954 Fr John said: 

"We were ordained into the diaconate out at the villa. I remember Monsignor Frank Thomas came over from England; he was a chaplain for the migrants who  came out. He later became Bishop of Geraldton. The photo is taken out at the villa. There’s a story behind the swimming pool at the villa where we used to go. Throughout the war, aeroplanes didn’t bomb Rome; Rome was an open city. There was no fighting in Rome because there’s so much history about, it you see. So, as soon as the Allies came to Rome the fighting returned in Italy, but there was still no fighting in Rome. So this bomber must have been going home, and he had a spare bomb, so he’s dropped it and it landed in the villa, and it landed on the ground and left a big crater. So instead of filling it in, they built a swimming pool … and the Australian Bishops donated the money.



Sally Holmes noted the significance of two of the hymns Fr John had chosen for his Requiem Mass, Panis Angelicus and Schubert's Ave Maria, both hymns his mother, a soprano, used to singFr John had shared with her fond memories of his mother’s voice singing these hymns.

“When Mum had dementia and was living in Bethlehem Home (for the Aged) in Bendigo, I would take her to the Cathedral; she would look up at the choir gallery and say, “I sang a solo up there,” it was Ave Maria. Mum was in the Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir, a mezzo soprano.”

On returning to Australia, Fr John was appointed assistant priest at Wodonga, then Rushworth, Wangaratta, Myrtleford, Euroa, Cobram and finally Beechworth.

His first appointment as Parish Priest was to Corryong in 1972, followed by appointments in Chiltern, Cobram, Wangaratta and finally Rutherglen, where he served until his retirement on 31 December 2014. 

In recent years Fr John suffered from ill health, but never lost his sense of humour as Fr John's long-time friend and Wangaratta parishioner, Jack Dillon recalls: "A couple of days before he died, I asked Fr John how he was doing. He replied 'I'm coming down the 18th fairway heading for the last hole!' ".  

Monsignor Peter Jeffrey, a relative and friend of Fr John, said in his Homily at the Funeral Mass that Fr John was “very much a priest of the North-East" and a Priest of the people and for the people. We share Monsignor Jeffrey's Homily with you below.

Fr John’s Requiem Mass is still available for viewing at the Tobin Brothers Funerals' website.  

Homily by Monsignor Peter Jeffrey

FrJohnWare 350... John was always up-to-date with what was happening locally, nationally and internationally. This is linked with his rich and accurate memory for people and places.

He grew up in Shepparton because his parents had the Shepp. Hotel. The family lived in Corio Street away from the hotel for the sake of the growing family. I think that their property was where the popular "Noble Monks" restaurant now is.

John became a boarder at St Patrick's College in Ballarat. I knew that John was a relation of mine through my father's side of the family. However, I had not met him until, as a newly ordained Priest, he came to celebrate Mass at St Pat's when he was returning from studying at Propaganda College in Rome. It was the end of term and normally I would catch the Provincial Motors Bus to get home.  However, John was going to catch up with relatives in Bendigo, so he drove me home. I felt very privileged that I was in the car with a newly ordained Priest, just back from Rome.

Students going to Rome in John's time travelled by boat; they studied Italian while at sea.   Not only did that help them when they went to Propaganda but, it was invaluable when they came back to the diocese. Over the years, John had a number of appointments, mainly in the North-East Deanery. His fluency in Italian was a great help in many of the parishes where he bonded with so many people.

Many people will remember how John had an extraordinary capacity to remember people and their relations and connections. This amazing ability made him a Priest 'of' and 'for' the people. This was so in our Sandhurst Parishes, particularly in the North East Deanery. However, John's ongoing links with people went far beyond the Sandhurst Diocese. Many of his confreres from Propaganda days became bishops in different parts of the world. He loved following their priestly journeys and he kept in touch with many of them.

John was an avid reader, which gave him a vast vocabulary. His homilies were generally brief and pungent, with interesting references to current affairs or a piece of literature that he was reading. I think people were amazed at the ease with which he remembered their family connections. He was very much a pastoral Diocesan Priest whose ministry was in the beautiful North-East Deanery. In some ways, he reminds me of the famous scripture scholar, Ronald Knox, who never having been to Rome, said, "I believe in keeping away from the 'engine room.' "  John, although he had some relatives in Bendigo, would only go there for 'clergy conferences' generally arriving late and often leaving early.

John recuperated from his earlier battle with cancer and said of it, "It was only a semi-colon, not a full stop." Even during this final battle when he saw his good friend Tony Jones, who happens to be a funeral director, coming to visit, he humorously said through the open door, "Do not come in, I'm not ready for you yet!" 

John was most appreciative of the pastoral care and friendship of Fr Brian Carey. John planned his own Funeral Mass. The brief passage from 2 Timothy is very apt. At the age of 90, John was in the 67th year of his priesthood. He could echo the words of Paul to Timothy, "The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race. I have kept the faith."

John had a strong prayer life, being faithful to the Daily Office and frequent Rosary. He chose the Johannine passage "I am the living bread that came down from Heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever". So we pray in this Mass that Father John Ware will live forever in the banquet of eternal life".

Monsingor Peter Jeffrey, 14 July 2021