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Father Chris ‘CJ’ O’Neil,


Father Chris ‘CJ’ O’Neil,

BORN: 22/09/1951DIED: 14/05/2023


A 1951 baby would have been born into a Church very different from the Church we have today. Then to break wind in Mass could be the start of the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire; a Church with too much law and not enough of God’s Word and Spirit.

St Paul, in writing to the gentiles of Galatia is referring to the Jewish Law and urging them to concentrate on the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ in order to make them right with God. C. J. and I were blessed to be students in a mature age seminary, named after St Paul, and in a class which would often exclaim in wonder “Why have we never heard any of this before?”

Over those four years we slowly began to understand what Paul meant in writing to the Galatians.

I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me. Gal 2:19

Basically, this means that we were called not to be like Christ, but to let him live in us. We were called not to love like Christ, but to let him love in and through us. We were called not to pray like Christ, but to make space for his Spirit to pray in us.[1]

Fair to say, we didn’t make it easy for Christ!

But to try and do this over the great distances of Streaky Bay/Ceduna, Coober Pedy, Quorn/Hawker Parishes, well that’s something else. Enough to take the stuffing out of a man. C. J. was very much an extravert. I am not sure if the Kensington RSL Club was ever the same after his time at the seminary. The banquet of his presence was over.

The very lifestyle, the long and lonely distances he had to travel must have taken their toll. Travelling with a little, loyal companion is not quite the same.

[1] Michael Fallon, The Letters of Paul A Commentary, Eastwood NSW: Parish Ministry Publications, 1989, 65.

St John’s gospel makes much of Jesus’ discussion with his disciples during their last supper, at which he makes one of the most significant statements about himself when he said,

I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. Jn 14:6

That is, I am bringing to the world the way to the Father because in him you will find the truth of what God is truly like and when you take this on board in faith, you will discover that you too can share in the life, divine, eternal.[1]

That, is, in his own way, what C. J. was about. He was about opening doors to rooms of faith in lonely places. It is how we fill those rooms that matters; sometimes very well, at other times not so. And God knows that too.

In the way of self-sacrifice and determination in the face of adversity we are led to the Father’s house.

In the truth of becoming who we are meant to be for others and indeed for ourselves, we are set free on our journey towards the Father’s house.

 In the life which shows the gladness of being alive, of using our God given talents, to love, to blossom and become, our life moves naturally to the Father’s house.

And, in the way of helplessness and acceptance we are led to the Father’s house.

And, in a smile of recognition we recognise the love that sets us free to journey towards the Father’s house.

 And, in just being alive we acknowledge that we have been part of God’s plan for creation so that our life moves naturally to a close on our way to our Father’s house.

It’s all as natural as leaping off the bridge into the Murray; of going to the seminary; of being ordained here in 1992.

[1] Brendan Byrne, Life Abounding A Reading of John’s Gospel, Strathfield NSW: St Pauls Publications, 2014,243.

Author: jennifer