Fr John Whiting, the oldest of the five children of David Emmanuel and Frances (Larmer) Whiting, was born in the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds on March 15, 1918.
His parents, David and Frances, had been married in St Monica’s Church, Moonee Ponds, and this is where the young John himself was baptized and where he received the Sacrament of Confession, his First Holy Communion and Confirmation.
He received his early education at St Monica’s Primary School and then went on to the Christian Brothers in Moonee Ponds.
He was particularly impressed with Redemptorist Priests who preached a retreat at his school and who were also made welcome in the family home. As a result, he developed a strong desire to join the Redemptorists and to preach the faith to as many Australians as possible.
He completed his secondary studies at the Redemptorist Juniorate, Galong, NSW. Then, after his novitiate and profession of vows, he began his studies for the priesthood at St Mary’s Monastery, Wendouree, Ballarat, Victoria.
He was ordained a priest on March 14, 1943 and was appointed to Galong as a teacher, where not so long before, he had been a student.
His brother, Kevin, followed him into the Redemptorists and was ordained 12 months after him.
Fr John Whiting, after a time at Galong, preached parish missions in 13 dioceses and over 100 parishes in New South Wales and Queensland.
During this time he saw the people’s need not just for a fortnight’s preaching in a parish, but for a spiritual and instructional outreach that could last up to 20 years. In that time, he envisaged, a complete generation would be able to receive the full teaching and spirit of the Catholic Faith.
After prayer, reflection and enquiry with the Redemptorists, he concluded that their way of life could not encompass his plans.
He outlined his ideas to Bishop Hugh Ryan of Townsville, who enthusiastically supported them and encouraged Fr John to begin his work in that diocese. He applied for and was granted dispensation from his vows as a Redemptorist and, with Bishop Ryan’s support and permission from Rome, the Confraternity of Christ the Priest, a society of priests and brothers, came into existence on January 23, 1954.
Bishop Ryan established the new parish of St Mary’s Parkside, Ayr, in the rich Burdekin Delta sugar cane district, as the first centre for the new Confraternity to begin its apostolate of person-by-person contact with the churchless.
The response was outstanding: when Fr Whiting left Parkside in 1968, the parish area, which had previously had only one run-down church and less than 100 regular Mass goers, now had two churches, a convent, a Catholic school, and Mass attendance of over 400 people.
From Parkside in 1969 the Confraternity moved interstate to Melbourne to establish Christ the Priest Seminary in the outer suburb of Scoresby, and a little later, the new Catholic parish of Scoresby.
As vocations increased over the years, Immaculate Heart Mission House at Warrenheip, near Ballarat, was built by members of the society and established as a preliminary training centre for aspiring priests and brothers.
After some years, the formation education of Confraternity members was transferred to the diocesan seminary, Vianney College, in the NSW Diocese of Wagga Wagga.
Fr Whiting lived in the Wagga Diocese for some years before retiring to Melbourne.
Fr John Thomas Whiting, founder of the Confraternity of Christ the Priest, died at Nazareth House, Melbourne, on November 20 in the 89th year of his life and the 63rd year of his ordination to the priesthood.
His funeral Mass was celebrated in the same church in which he was baptized. Many priests from Wagga Wagga and Melbourne, including several he had assisted in their own vocations, concelebrated his funeral Mass. Fr Whiting’s body was laid to rest in the Keilor Cemetery in the presence of his brothers, Fr Kevin, Ray and Noel and their families and many priests and religious and loyal friends.
His work of outreach continues today in the Parish of West Wagga, New South Wales, where the ‘Intensive Apostolate’ outreach to the churchless which Fr Whiting pioneered is carried on.
Many priests from Wagga Wagga and Melbourne, including several he had assisted in their own vocations, concelebrated the Masses, particularly his funeral Mass.
Fr Whiting’s body was laid to rest in the Keilor Cemetery in the presence of his brothers, Fr Kevin, Ray and Noel and their families and many priests and religious and loyal friends.
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