Fr John Wilcken SJ has been farewelled from Corpus Christi Community in Greenvale, Vic., where he has lived for most of the past 30 years, while also teaching theology in Parkville.
Facing serious health issues, he has now moved to the care of Caritas Christi Hospice, Kew.
Fr Wilcken was able to attend the Feast of Corpus Christi at the Community — always a big day there. Corpus Christi Greenvale formed to support homeless men more than 40 years ago, and many of the present residents greeted him with affection.
The men of the community took the opportunity to farewell Fr Wilcken for his years of presence and service, and presented him with a card which many of them had written in, as well as lots of presents.
Fr Steve Curtin SJ presided at the Mass (see below).
Fr Wilcken’s brother David, sister-in-law Bridget and other family members came from Sydney for the occasion. It was a wonderful and fitting farewell.
Homily by Fr Steve Curtin SJ
God brings his people safely through the desert, through the arid and difficult times in our lives, feeding us and sending angels to minister to us. God is by our side even when we take wrong turns and go down blind alleys, God is there, calling to us, calling us to come, and receive nourishment from him.
Today’s Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is being celebrated all over the world, but you celebrate it here in a special way, because Corpus Christi is your name, and it’s a beautiful name. It’s who you are. In your chapel, when you look upon the wounded and bloodied body of Christ on the cross, you can recognise yourselves. You can recognise yourselves in the broken-hearted Jesus. In this community we learn that just as the cross was not the end of the story for Jesus, neither is brokenness the end of our stories. And just as Jesus carries his wounds with him into the glory of God’s presence, it is with and through our woundedness that we are able to care for one another and allow ourselves to be cared for.
By our lives we want to show that with God’s help, here in this place, we can be a community that cares for one another, especially for the most wounded and broken among us. In the most wounded and broken among us, we can recognise the battered and bloody body of Jesus our friend, and we can learn to care for and love those among us who are difficult to love.
God brings his people safely through the desert, giving us food for the journey. Through the cup we bless and through the bread we break we can draw so close to God, in a friendship so intimate, that the body and blood of his Son become our body and blood. In having a share in this living bread which has come down from heaven, we can find courage and strength and healing.
It was Mother Teresa and her Sisters who started this community in 1974, and presumably it was Mother Teresa who chose the name Corpus Christi. The Jesuits and the Sisters of Mercy came here in 1977, and Fr John moved to live here in 1986 — 31 years ago. Now John is moving on. On behalf of the Jesuits I want to thank you, the Corpus Christi Community, for giving John a home among you for all these years. We want to thank Patrick and all the staff here, Dr Lynch and the nursing and pastoral care staff, the maintenance and kitchen staff, the cleaners, the gardeners and drivers and volunteers and the Campion outreach team. Thank you all for the support that you have given that has enabled John to stay here until now.
John, thank you for showing us what it means to be in communion with the poor, broken and rejected Jesus. Thank you for showing us how to minister to one another, how to rely totally on God’s grace and how to be a source of life and healing for others. Thank you for your goodness, your generosity, your dedication, your love. We know you would have continued at Corpus Christi longer if it was humanly possible to do so. We are grateful to God that you have been able to be here for so long. We all care deeply for you, John, just as you have cared for and loved others so faithfully all your life. We are so happy that your family can be with us here today so that they can hear us tell you how much we will always cherish the memory of your presence among us. We keep you always in our hearts and in our prayers. May God bless you and watch over you and continue to help you in the days to come. Thank you.