Fr John P Wilkinson, of the Vincentian Congregation of the Mission, the Rector of St Charles’ seminary in Guildford from 1948 to 1958 died in Malvern, Victoria, on February 18 at the age of 93.
One of his students at the seminary was Archbishop Barry Hickey who described him as ‘a dynamic person, very knowledgeable and very strict’.
“He was completely devoted to the seminary and, in addition to our theology, philosophy and liturgy he provided us with many things we did not expect,” he said.
“He gave us a cultural formation in drama, particularly Shakespeare, literature and music which we appreciated even though we chafed under the regime.”
A memorial Mass and meal for seminarians under Fr Wilkinson (priests and those who did not proceed to ordination) will be held at the seminary at 5.15pm next Tuesday, March 11. Those attending should inform the seminary.
Fr Wilkinson was born in Wallsend, NSW, and educated in Bathurst before joining the Vincentians in March 1932. He was ordained a priest at St Patrick’s College, Manly on July 20, 1938, and left almost immediately for Ireland where he completed an MA and DipEd at University College Dublin.
Because of the difficulties of travel during the war, he remained in Ireland until 1945, teaching at St Patrick’s seminary in Armagh and at All Hallows’ College, Drumcondra.
On his return to Australia he taught at his old school, St Stanislaus’ in Bathurst before becoming the first Vincentian Rector at St Charles’ in 1948. It was the beginning of a long period in the seminary and formation apostolate. His 10-year appointment in Perth was followed by six years at Holy Cross College, Mosgiel, three years at Christ the King seminary, Scoresby, two years at College St Joseph in Beirut and 14 years at Vianney College, Wagga.
Fr Wilkinson was chaplain at Macquarie University 1967-72 and devoted ten years of his priestly work to missions, retreats and relief work in parishes.
He is remembered among Vincentians for his energy, his attention to detail, and his dislike of sloppiness of thought and lack of precision in expression.