Service. Born in 1910, Father John was ordained priest for the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart in 1932. He served the island State of Tasmania as a priest for 69 years, dying in 2001, aged 91.
John Wallis was a man of God and a true pastor for his people, seeking them out in their homes, in hospitals and prisons. People experienced him as man of deep humanity, understanding, compassion and wisdom, as well as a keen sense of humour.
A man of prayer, John’s love of God overflowed into love of God’s people and creation. He had particular concern for those isolated from mainstream life, either geographically or socially – those beyond. It was in response to that concern that he founded the Missionary Sisters of Service in 1944. Until the end of his life he cherished a special relationship with this Congregation, as friend, guide and mentor.
John nourished his soul with wide and wise reading. Individuals and community sought him out for retreats and spiritual guidance.
Appreciating the place of good reading in the development of an informed and vibrant faith-life, he established in Hobart a Catholic library (1938) and, in the 1940s, a
bookshop. From 1957 until 2003 that bookshop was staffed by the Missionary Sisters of Service. John frequently passed on good books to others. Many a bookshelf around the country will have one or more books marked with his signature: John C Wallis.
Father John’s vision was both vast and practical. He encouraged people to “look at big maps”, not only geographical maps, but also large inner maps: a hospitality of mind and heart, open to people and ideas, open to notice and respond to what is going on in the world. At the same time, John appreciated his immediate surroundings. He delighted in bushwalking and photographing native flora. He often used his photos as greeting cards for his proliferous correspondence.
To the end of his long life, John kept a young and vigorous spirit, always keeping abreast of the times. He was a mentor and friend to his fellow priests, especially those living in isolated places. He had a great freedom of spirit. For him, the law prior to every other law was love. He was truly a remarkable man.