SS Peter and Paul’s, East Doncaster,
29 January, 1989
An autobiography: external details
My name if Fr John Dupuche. I have been appointed as your new parish priest, in succession to Fr Hally. It is appropriate I think, that I should make some introduction of myself.
My father and mother came, in the thirties, from the north of France, my father being sent to Australia as a woolbuyer for a French firm. I have one sister and two brothers, all married with children. They live in the parishes of Hawthorn, East Kew and North Balwyn. My mother lives in Armadale.
My education was with the Jesuit Fathers, first at Kostka Hall in Brighton and then at Xavier College in Kew. Every two or three years, during my youth, my father would take us on trips to France. I am much indebted to him for this broad education.
At the conclusion of my schooling I entered the Society of Jesus and spent some eight years, very happy years, with them at Watsonia and at the University of Melbourne. These years of study were very useful, occupied in Scholastic Philosophy and in German and French Language and Literature. They were years of great change as the Church went through the process of the Second Vatican Council.
However, time had come for me to leave the Jesuits. I needed to spread my wings and to follow my star. I left the Society of Jesus and spent some time, as resident tutor, at Whitley Baptist College, where I learned the power of the Word of God. Later on I taught in France amidst the beauty of the Loire Valley. After a further year working in the Foreign Affairs Department in Canberra, I entered the diocesan seminary, at Glen Waverley and later at Clayton. I could not live except as a priest.
On completing a double theology course both at Corpus Christi College and at the Melbourne College of Divinity, I was ordained in 1974. My first appointment was in the parish of Glenroy.
At the conclusion of three years at Glenroy I was nominated by Archbishop Little to Christ College, within the Institute of Catholic Education, at Oakleigh, as Chaplain and as Lecturer-in-charge of the Religious Education Department. These were good years, busy years, nine years of lecturing in theology and attending to the spiritual needs of the students and staff.
However, I knew that my destiny did not lie there. I asked Archbishop Little to relieve me of my position. He granted me a year of sabbatical leave in 1987, which I spent in prayer and in reflection on parish life. That year was spent in various parts of the world: in California, Italy, Egypt and India. It was a valuable year. On returning to Melbourne, Archbishop Little appointed me as assistant priest at Hoppers Crossing. Now, at the beginning of 1989, he has appointed me as your priest.
A long and winding path has led me to this place. I had thought seriously of being a hermit, but no, my place is to be among the community, in your midst. I had thought carefully about being a monk, but no, my task is to speak to the people, to yourselves. I had thought about marriage and took serious steps in that direction but, no, I am to be wedded to the parish. Was I to be a lecturer, doing research and writing learned articles? No, I am to be a priest among the people, to bring them blessing and the grace of God, to yourselves.
Thus, I come among you as your priest, a man of God among the children of God, to be a source of truth, to be your friend, living already with you the state of eternity.
The long winding road of my life has led me to this point. Here I am to be. Together we will produce good things. May God bless us in our endeavours. Over the months that lie ahead – indeed it will take several years – I hope to visit all of your in your homes. Rather than waiting for time to allow our meeting, it would please me very much if I could greet you all, individually, at this point in the mass. Perhaps it could be done as follows …..
An autobiography: the interior journey
My name of Fr John Dupuche. I have been appointed as your Parish Priest. It is fitting that I should give some sort of introduction of myself to you.
Should I recount to you the externals of my life? I come from a French family. My education was at Xavier College. I was with the Jesuits for a number of years. I have completed studies at Melbourne University and spent time in the Foreign Affairs Department, in Canberra and completed further studies at Corpus Christi College and at the Melbourne College of Divinity.
After three years as Assistant Priest at Corpus Christi, Glemoy I was appointed to the Christ College, at the Institute of Catholic Education lecturing there for nine years and acting as chaplain to the staff and students there. After a year’s sabbatical leave overseas in various parts of the world, I was appointed to Hoppers Crossing as Assistant Priest for one year and now to you as your pastor.
These, however, are the externals of my life. It is more important that I should present the inner history of what has happened to me. That is where my true self has been formed.
The first experience that is relevant here occurred at the age of seven. It was around the time of my first communion. I had a powerful experience of the transcendence of God and felt drawn to be with him. I acquired a confidence in him and a sense of union with him that has not left me. It was then that I decided to be a priest, a man of God and that decision, during the years of my childhood and youth, never left me.
The next experience that was powerful in its effects was during a school retreat, preached by Fr Gleeson. An overwhelming sense of dedication came upon me, to devote myself to the work of God, even thought it might mean going to the most distant and unknown continent, South America. Whatever he would ask of me I would do.
Time passed, some ten years. It was at Tübingen, in Germany. Dissatisfied with the state of affairs, confused as to my purpose, I complained that I did not know how to achieve my wish to be close to God. My orientation had been Godwards, wishing to be with him in his transcendence. Yet it seemed that I was absent from him. Then – this was one year after the events of May 1968, August 10, 1969, to be precise – as I sat in the garden of the Catholic Church in Tübingen it became clear to me, with a powerful realisation which made me stand and walk, that it was only in the transformation of the world, in the pursuit of justice in the world that I could come close to God, being like him by acting like him. This was a thorough reorientation of my life. Instead of being ever Godwards, I now became turned to the world, becoming close to God in the process, adopting his point of view, his mind and will, his being.
The years passed. There was a slow, progressive, confused, groping towards a new spirituality. I was moving towards the philosophy of medieval Kashmir. My year of sabbatical leave was an attempt to ascertain the varied impressions and experiences that led me in this direction. There was no sudden shift, no great realisation but rather a slow dawning, much hedged about with prudence and questioning.
A particular experience of the year of sabbatical leave, during 1897, occurred in the desert of Sinai where I was encamped. It was the wish to explode with light in the hearts of all, in their very selves, their very bodies, to explode with the light of truth and grace.
This has been some attempt, in a short space, to express to you what is important to me: the experiences of grace in me. It is the experience of grace that finally will be what I give to you. All the rest is preparatory and incidental.
The time has come for me to reveal the mysteries of God that have been made known to me, and conversely for me to know the mysteries of God that have been revealed in you. God speaks to us and through us. We are to come to know the works of God in each other and to celebrate them.
Thus I am your priest among you.