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Vale Fr Grove Johnson

With great sadness, we acknowledge the recent passing of Father Grove Johnson, late of the Diocese of Rockhampton and formerly of Sydney. Father Grove served as the National Director of Catholic Mission from 1984-1994 and continued to support the global missionary work of the organisation well into his retirement.

Dr Grove Johnson - rockhampton copy
'A wonderful heart for those [we] serve': Father Grove (left) with Catholic Mission's
Rockhampton Director Greg Clair during a visit last year.

Father Grove also served as Rector of St Patrick’s College in Manly in the 1980s, where he lectured in liturgy. One of his students was Father Brian Lucas, the current Catholic Mission National Director, who fondly remembers his predecessor’s influence.

‘I first met Father Grove when he came to St Patrick's College, Manly, and taught me from 1977-79. His classes were in liturgy but his wide experience captivated everyone and he ventured far beyond the confines of his subject, sharing practical wisdom of parish life. He had spent the war years in Europe in the seminary, also undertaking postgraduate study, and was fluent in Italian and French. This equipped him well when he took over as National Director of Catholic Mission.’

Catholic Mission Deputy National Director Peter Gates joined the organisation when it was under the stewardship of Father Grove. He recalls a visionary, but very grounded leader. ‘He was an intelligent person, academic, but had a grounded, practical theology that in its application was sometimes quite revolutionary and future-focused.’

As National Director of Catholic Mission, Father Grove advocated for several innovations that would come to fruition in later years. ‘He proposed a form of regionalisation of the Pontifical Mission Societies, as Catholic Mission was then known, and today, over twenty years later we can see that in operation,’ says Mr Gates.

‘Another example of his vision was his efforts to bring more lay staff to the organisation, leaders with the skills, experience and knowledge needed for a faith-based, mission-oriented organisation responding to the changing world.’

Remembered as a kind, generous, and reflective man, Father Grove’s time in Europe during the Second World War formed a deep missionary spirit. While studying in Rome, he would save half of his bread and other parts of his meals to pass on to those in the resistance movement.

Such memories endure thanks to a penchant for sharing stories. ‘Grove was a wonderful storyteller,’ recalls Mr Gates. ‘He would captivate anyone who shared time with him with far-ranging tales full of joy, wisdom, hope and spirit.

‘Above all, he had a wonderful heart for those who Catholic Mission serves.’

Our prayers are with Father Grove's family at this time. May he rest in peace.

A funeral service for Father Grove will be held at St Joseph's Cathedral, Rockhampton, on Thursday 11 January 2018 at 10am. 

Media contact: Matthew Poynting | (02) 9919 7833 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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