Renowned for his engaging personality, affability and charm, Columban Father John Griffin died peacefully in Wellington, New Zealand on Thursday 25 September, 2014.
Born in Timaru, New Zealand, in 1927, John joined the Columban mission in 1944. His theological studies were completed at Corpus Christi, Melbourne, with ordination six years later in 1950 at Dunedin. After ordination, John was assigned to the Philippines, to the Diocese of Iba in the Province of Zambales where he learned the Ilokano dialect and worked for 20 years in parish situations.
A medical emergency in 1970 brought him back to New Zealand for the amputation of his right leg, due to cancer. It was during his rehabilitation that Fr John took up the violin, which was to play an important part of his life and the lives of many others.
With a positive outlook on life and an artificial limb, he was to retain mobility for four decades.
John came alive amongst the people, travel, cultures, music and languages. His travelling violin played a big part in his journey. John loved making music, telling stories and bringing inspiration and hope to others. Faith came wrapped in warm-hearted affability.
Appointed to the education and fundraising work at Lower Hutt, New Zealand, John promoted the Columban mission cause for the next ten years. A feature of his tenure was an ability to establish friendships with benefactors, missionaries and church dignitaries.
In 1985 John was appointed to the Chile region and began studying Spanish at the Maryknoll Language Institute in Cochabamba, Bolivia. During his time at the Institute, John recorded a CD with English Mill Hill Sister, Carole Andrews and David Ratermann, a priest from St Louis. The CD was titled, Recuerdos & Memories (Memories of the Institute) by John Griffin & Friends.
|LISTEN: An Easter Alleluia
(Duration: 1.17mins, MP3, 3MB)
Vocals: Sister Carole Andrews and Father John Griffin
|LISTEN: Song of the Soul
(Duration: 3.12mins, MP3, 7.33MB)
Vocal: Sister Carole Andrews
Violin: Father John Griffin
After ten years of working with urban communities in Santiago, Chile, Fr John returned to New Zealand where he continued to preach the message of mission awareness.
In retirement, John resided at St Columban's, Lower Hutt, New Zealand, and later at the Aroha Care Centre for the Elderly in the Hutt Valley.
Fr John's funeral was held on 30 September at the Church of St Martin de Porres, Avalon, New Zealand.
One tribute said it well: "He arrived among us bringing short moments of joy and encouragement; he departed leaving long memories of friendship and celebration."
00:03:44 | Dec 12, 2013
Columban Father Michael Gormly describes Father John as "a fiddler on the roof". The late priest loved to play music from the 1971 film, 'Fiddler on the Roof'.
Columban Father John, a tall, handsome, distinguished and very kind man, wrote an amusing account of the unexpected obstacles he met while travelling from Australia to New Zealand for his ordination in 1950 in Ordination Misadventures.
Father John also wrote an article on San Alberto Hurtado SJ, A priest, I bless you - Alberto. In this article Father John writes about the Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) founded by the Saint.
May Father John join San Alberto in the Hogar that Christ has prepared for us all.
May Columban Fr John Griffin rest in peace.