Perth Priest goes to his reward: Fr Lisle

09 Apr 2009

By The Record

One of the first married Anglican clergy to be ordained a Catholic priest, Fr John Lisle, died in Hollywood Hospital on March 25 and was buried at Karrakatta on April 1 after a concelebrated Mass at which Archbishop Barry Hickey was the principal celebrant.


John Lisle was born at Hanham, near Bristol, England  on May 22, 1918.
He had a challenging  childhood which included severe burns to his body from scalding water, the pneumonia that followed, and tuberculosis.
His mother, Alice Jane, was an Anglican and his father an avowed atheist,  but young John seemed to have an early premonition that he would be a Catholic. As a four-year-old living in Bryn Mawr, Wales, he once put on a display from his upstairs bedroom window of preaching to the neighbours. When his mother came up to put him back to bed he told here he would be a priest, and even at that young age he meant a Catholic priest.
As it transpired, he was ordained an Anglican minister in 1942, the beginning of 67 years serving God.
He spent 12 years in the Bahamas in a large mission of remote islands which he and his friend Fr Gordon Bennett accessed by sail boat.
It was in the Bahamas that he met his beloved wife Mary, and the couple had three children, David, Jane and Mary.
Also in the Bahamas, he spent a lot of time in the company of Catholic priests, including Monsignor Hawes, of architectural and priestly fame in WA.
From the Bahamas they travelled to South Africa where his work included a period at Humansdorp, a mission parish covering 100 square miles and incorporating 25 churches with mud hut accommodation.
His strong belief that everyone had a fundamental right to dignity and freedom, and the charitable activities that flowed from that belief, soon brought him under suspicion from the police.
When his open opposition to apartheid led to his being branded a communist and to his rectory phone being tapped, Mary decided it was time to go home to England where the family spent 18 months before sailing to WA.
During all this time his love for the Catholic Church had grown strongly.
His first appointment was to the Anglican  parish at Mt Barker where he soon met his Anglican counterpart at Kojonup, Geoff Beyer, and discovered they both had a strong desire to be Catholic.
John Lisle was received into the Catholic Church in 1968 and on October 19, 1969 he, Geoff Beyer and Rodney Williams  made news around the world when, as married men, they were ordained as Catholic priests.
Fr Lisle’s first appointment was as Assistant Priest at Scarborough until he became Parish Priest at Armadale in January 1973. Ill health forced him to relinquish the post in February 1974 when he became Parish Priest at Toodyay.
Fully recovered, and full of his trademark enthusiasm, he became Parish Priest and Dean of Northam in 1981, and then Parish Priest of Mosman Park in 1988.
He retired to Tom Perrott Village in October 1993.