Successful Book Launch at Narre Warren

Aug 12 2014
Successful Book Launch at Narre Warren

Here is a copy of the speech I made at the launch of my new book Rainbow Over Narre Warren.

My name is Elsie and I am John’s sister, older than him by five years and I wrote this book to honour him and the things he did.
I know that John would have loved to hang around on earth a bit longer. He had things he wanted to do, places he wanted to be, work that wasn’t complete, people he wanted to spend time with, meals he hadn’t eaten!
None of us wanted John to go to God just yet either. He was important in our lives and we enjoyed being in his company. John was a good bloke!
But it was not to be and we don’t get to chose the day and date of our death.
The thing is we all have to do our dying sometime and John has done his and he did it well.
Pancreatic Cancer is the cancer you just don’t want to get. It is a death sentence = three to nine months = the oncologist said. And that was it. Seven months from go to whoa! Our brother John was dead and there was nothing we could do to bring him back.
But Alleluia! John lives on. He lives on in our hearts, in the influence he has had on our lives and in the work that he chose to do on earth. I have tried to capture something of John’s essence in my new book, Rainbow Over Narre Warren.
This book is not a biography. There is probably no other book quite like it. It is an eclectic mix of reminiscences, stories anecdotes, remembrances and detail that go some way to showing what made John, the man tick.
The undertaker who took care of John’s earthly body and prepared it for his last journey was a friend of John and was visibly upset when we met him. That is why when I had a choice of quotes for the front of the book I chose the one by Mark Twain that reads
“Let us so live so that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
John’s undertaker was truly sorry that he had died.
Why then the title? Rainbow Over Narre Warren.
When choosing a title for John’s book I could have called it Father John, or perhaps Pilgrim’s Progress or perhaps ‘A Man for his People’ but I kept coming back to RONW.
And this is the reason.
The day of John’s vigil mass here at Narre Warren was a wet windy typical winter’s day – mid July, mid winter. Before the mass the family had a chance to view John’s body and to say our goodbyes.
After the viewing we met at La Porcetta’s for tea. An apt place because this was where John took the nieces and nephews for a bite to eat if they unexpectedly called on him. It was perfect, close to home and with food that everybody loves. We ate and talked and then stepped out of there to go over over to the church. The wild weather had stopped, the air was still and there draping over the highway and Church was a huge full rainbow.
Surely, a sign that John was all right.
So I sat down and wrote a poem about the rainbow that night and I will read it for you now.
While I still have the mike there are a few thank you's to say.
To the organising committee for tonight who loved John so much that you took the time to remember the anniversary of John’s death and all the things John loved – THE SIX F’S friends, family, favourite music, footy, fellowship AND FOOD.
For all the people who counted John as a friend I say thank you.
Priests are lonely people. They are an island, a part of people’s lives but always separate.
They go home alone after the most traumatic of days (perhaps a child’s death, a husband’s suicide, or a problem at a parish school or committee).
A priest goes home to an empty house where there is nobody there to reassure him if he doubts himself, gives him a cuddle and tell him that he is OK.
On the other hand there is nobody to give him instructions, advice or tell him where to put his muddy boots.
John counted many people from this parish as his friend, people he felt comfortable with, who accepted him for who he was. Thankyou to all the people who welcomed John and made him part of your families. He loved being your pastor and friend.
The office staff at OLHC and the staff at the schools who are all so capable and do such a wonderful job. John loved working with you and enjoyed being in your company. You made his life happy and fun.
When we think of John we tend to think Narre Warren but there are other Gippsland parishes who loved and enjoyed John’s leadership. Lakes Entrance, Sale, Morwell, Traralgon, Yarram, Koo Wee Rup / Iona /Mary Knoll, Pakenham.
I thank all of them for their affirmation of him.
A special thankyou to the generous people of our home town Lakes Entrance who loved and were proud of their ‘local boy’ and affirmed and supported John all of his life.
A very special thanks to the people whose contributions made this book possible. Not everybody can write and not everybody wants to write, but I put the word out that I was doing this book and John’s family, colleagues and friends wrote some beautiful and insightful words about John and his ministry, about John the brother and John the beloved uncle. The people who contributed to this book did so because they wanted to say out loud what John meant to them. They managed to paint a picture of our Father John, an exceptional man. Thank you to those people for giving your time so generously to put John’s story on record.
Last but certainly not least, I wish to thank Father Brendan, a truly gentle and lovely man. He and Father Dennis O’Brien enjoyed many holidays and a special comradeship over many years and Brendan was there for John for the whole seven months of his illness, rushing in to the hospital on that Friday evening twelve months ago today to perform the last rights. Brendan was a gentle and caring friend to John.
I know and understand that it is difficult following the footsteps of a hero (as John appeared to be in this Parish) but Father Brendan is pure gold, so please cherish him in the same way you did for John.
I now declare this book ‘ Rainbow Over Narre Warren’ open. Enjoy the read!

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