Jesuits, family and friends gathered at Immaculate Conception Church in Hawthorn, Vic., to remember Fr John Doenau SJ on 28 September.
John died on Monday 25 September aged 88 years. He was remembered at the funeral as one of the ‘Seven Deadlies’ — the name given to the group of seven novices who took their vows as Jesuits in February 1949.
John now joins Doug Boyd, Bill Daniel, Kevin King, Brian O’Connell and John Reilly in heaven. Antony Ruhan is the only survivor of the group.
In his homily at the funeral, Fr Pat O’Sullivan SJ said the seven deadlies have become part of the folklore of the Australian Jesuit Province.
‘To become part of the folklore of any institute is quite an achievement, and it speaks volumes of the contribution such people make to the ethos of that institution.
‘When that association is known as the Society of Jesus, for anyone to become part of that folklore is to endorse such a person as a truly Jesus man. And that’s the most appropriate description of John — a truly Jesus man.’
John had a range of roles in his 54 years of priestly ministry. He taught in schools, was a counsellor at the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau in Brisbane and Melbourne, a retreat director at Campion and Canisius, and a spiritual father at the East Asian Pastoral Institute at the Philippines. He was involved in marriage enrichment programs, and taught Latin at the diocesan seminary.
‘All John’s ministries, and there were many, were motivated by his relationship with Jesus’, said Fr O’Sullivan.
Fr O’Sullivan also remembered fondly John’s sense of humour, which he said was further evidence of his deep spiritual bond with Jesus.
‘For those of us who lived with John, the fruits of his relationship with Jesus were quite transparent. He didn’t have a selfish bone in his body.’
A message from John’s brother, Stan, was also read out at the funeral, by his niece Michelle.
‘When I reflect on John’s life, and the many ways he excelled as a human being, I think of him especially as an unselfish man, with a very big heart’, said Stan. ‘For me that has always been his defining characteristic.’