By Elsie Johnstone
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
In these days when the clergy in general and Catholic priests in particular receive regular negative publicity, we tend to overlook the many good men who continue to dedicate their lives to preaching the gospel and ministering dutifully to their congregations. Father John Allen was one such man, one who was loved and respected by the people whose lives he touched in many ways in times of stress and of joy.
Father John shared his love with people and cared for his flock, welcoming those from the outside and inviting them in. He had the ability to make everybody feel special heralding the good news that we are all worthy of God’s love, that life and everything in it is a gift. Grateful parishioners whom he supported in times of need could easily have placed him on a pedestal, but he did not allow that to happen. “It’s my privilege,” he would say. He was one of the people.
Father John was available to those in need. Sometimes it must have seemed that everybody wanted a piece of him, and they wanted it straight away. Father John never saw his ministry as an opportunity for self-promotion, but rather a way of building up others so that they could live a better and more fulfilling life. He never hid behind the cloak of authority. He worked at ground level and left that to the ‘big boys’ of the Church.
Father John empowered his congregation. He humbly recognized that he was often not the smartest or most spiritual person in every room and deliberately set out to encourage and empower others, to recognize their gifts so that they would use them for their own and the greater good. In his church many people made ministry happen. His great ability was to trust and delegate, helping make the connections between the Bible and how it applies to them.
Father John was a humble servant of his people. He accepted everybody as they were, always being aware of his own failures and struggles. That is why he could preach with practical relevance. He never said, “You have sinned.” Instead he said, “We have all sinned.” He never said, “You can do better.” Instead he said, “We can all do better.”
Father John’s sermons were always short and succinct. He recognized that a person whose job it is to talk for 10-20 minutes a week needs to engage his audience. Each week he took the time and made an effort to strive to make his sermons interesting and relevant.
Father John was a big man with a big smile that radiated joy and peace. He was a gentle and faith filled man who treated others with respect. He was amazingly connected and loved. ‘”I was happy to be a priest; it is a most happy and fulfilling life,” he wrote in a message penned when he knew his death was near.
“To my family, friends and parishioners, who have prayed for me over all these years, you will not be forgotten in my heavenly home.”
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