Fr. Jim Johnston, who died on 9 January, 2017, was a missionary priest in Fiji for 43 years.
A native of Ravensdale, he passed away peacefully in St. Peter’s nursing home, Castlebellingham.
He was born on 2 February, 1937, one of six children of Harry and Annie Johnston, Deerpark, Ravensdale.
Jim was educated in Dulargy NS, before attending St. Mary’s College in Dundalk.
From there, he went to Mount St. Mary’s, Milltown in 1955, and was professed a Marist in 1957.
He was ordained to the priesthood in All Hallows on 7 April, 1962, and travelled to his first parish, St. Anne’s, London, the following September.
Fr. Jim returned to St. Mary’s, Dundalk in August, 1963, where he remained for a year, until volunteering for missionary work in Oceania.
The start of his mission in the south Pacific began on 11 November, 1964, when he arrived in Fiji, an archipelago of more than 300 islands.
At the funeral Mass, Fr. Kevin Cooney, in his eulogy, spoke about the parish work undertaken by Fr. Jim in such places as St. John’s College, Cawaci, Sumi, Rotuma, Vanua Levu, Sacred Heart, Levuka, Holy Cross Parish on the island of Taveuni, Wairiki, Lami and Mount St. Mary’s, Nadi.
He always kept in touch with friends, neighbours and family in Ravensdale, Dundalk and the Cooley peninsula, and, on his visits home, enjoyed a good musical session.
Indeed, Jim’s love of music was reflected in the celebration of his funeral Mass.
In 2007, Fr. Jim came back to Dundalk in failing health. He helped out in the Marist community until his health deteriorated. At which stage he moved to St. Peter’s, Castlebellingham in November, 2015, where he was looked after with great care by the nurses and staff. His illness was borne with characteristic good humour and acceptance. Fr. Jim was predeceased by his parents, Annie and Harry and sisters, Alice Hughes and Lily McDonald.
He is survived by his sister, Winnie Markey, brothers, Tommy and Harry, nephews, nieces, grandnieces, grandnephews, great-grandniece, great-grandnephew, relatives, Marist Confreres and many friends. On Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, after reposing in McGeough’s funeral home, Fr. Jim’s remains were removed to St. Mary’s Church, Dundalk, for evening prayer. A concelebrated Mass took place the following morning, at which Fr. Cooney was chief celebrant.
Concelebrants were Fr. Tommy McNulty, a classmate of Jim’s in Dulargy NS, Fr. Eamon Kavanagh CSsR, a class before him in St. Mary’s, Fr. Peter Clancy (Dublin), a relative of Jim’s, and classmate in St. Mary’s, Fr. Kieran Butler and Fr. Joe Rooney, both from Chanel College, Coolock, Dublin, Fr. Jim O’Connell, Fr. Paddy Stanley, Fr. Frank Corry and Fr. Edmund Duffy, Holy Family, Dundalk, Fr. Michael Maher, Fr. Padraig Keenan, PP, Haggardstown, Fr. Sean Quinn, Kilsaran, Fr. Sean McArdle, SM, PP, Louth and Fr. Declan O’Loughlan.
Readers were Una Fox and John Mahon, and the Prayers of the Faithful were led by Paula Markey, Paul Johnston, Fiona McDonald, Aileen Markey, Harry Johnston and Andrew McDonald (Perth, Australia).
The Offertory Gifts were brought up by Isobel Mahon, Eva Mahon, Eoin Fox and Lilli Fox. During the Mass the liturgy was greatly enhanced by the Marist choir, accompanied by organist Margaret McCauley. Joseph Johnston, accompanied by the organist, sang ‘I will never forget you my people’ (Isaiah).
As a salutation to Fiji, Joseph played a Fijian tune on the recorder as a Holy Communion Reflection.
He sang ‘A jug of punch’, one of Fr. Jim’s favourites, at the end of Mass.
Burial took place in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, and at the graveside the Marist Fathers sang ‘Salve Regina’.