Kairos: Volume 21, Issue 10
- Born in Beaudesert, Queensland, 5 June 1951
- Professed in Wynnum, Queensland, 15 January 1989
- Ordained in Beaudesert, 1 June 1996
- Died in Melbourne, 18 May 2010
I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.(2 Timothy 4:7)
Why were so many young people present for the funeral of a 58-year-old Capuchin priest? Why were these young people mourning in Christian hope as if it were for the loss of a father?
Fr Denis Ward exercised spiritual fatherhood in his priesthood and religious life as a Capuchin friar. He had a strong commitment to the sanctity of life that had been instilled in him by his Catholic family. He was a dairy farmer in Kerry, near Beaudesert, in south-eastern Queensland until his mid 30s, when he left his beloved family and his farm to answer the call to religious life and the priesthood.
Young people experienced a paternal concern for them when they approached Fr Denis with their problems, confusions and questions, and especially in the sadness and anguish caused by their sins. They felt confident that Fr Denis would not be scandalised by them, but, rather, would bring them to a meeting with the divine mercy of Jesus Christ, through exercising his priesthood. They could walk away with hope renewed.
For most of his 12 years of priesthood Fr Denis was in Hawthorn, as the local superior of the Capuchin friars. He was one of the main formators for the Capuchin friars in Australia. The young friars on returning from the novitiate in the US were under his charge as they integrated the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience into the practicality of living the Capuchin life in fraternity.
The presence at St Anthony’s Shrine, Hawthorn, of Archbishop Denis Hart at the rosary vigil and the presence at the Funeral Mass of Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott, Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta, about 35 priests, many religious men and women, and a full church, with a large representation of young people, testified to the fact that Fr Denis did not confine his work only to the local community of friars and to the people who frequented the Shrine. In a faithful living out of his priesthood and religious life he gave himself to the service of the Church of the wider Melbourne area and beyond.