A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr John Edward O’Dowd sm

Fr John O'Dowd sm

Fr John O'Dowd sm

Born in Auckland, 26 August 1929

Professed as Brother Stanislaus, 25 March 1950

Ordained 26 August 1972

Died at Silverstream 7 June 2016

Thanks to Fr Denis O’Hagan sm for this edited version of his eulogy.

John O’Dowd was the son of Veronica Mary Elizabeth Rickets and John Edward O’Dowd who had married in February 1928. He was their only child. He grew up in the Ponsonby-Herne Bay area of Auckland, long before gentrification turned it into a yuppie paradise. He attended Mercy Sisters’ and Marist Brothers’ primary schools in Vermont St and Sacred Heart College, at that time on the site of the present-day St Paul’s College.

The things of God were clearly important to John from an early age. At the age of 19, in 1947, John became a foundation member of Holy Name minor seminary in Christchurch. He left Holy Name after one year and entered the Society of Mary’s novitiate at Highden in May 1948.

After his first profession and taking the name Stanislaus, John was appointed to Mount St Mary’s Seminary where he worked as gardener. In 1954 he transferred to the Province of Oceania, working in the plantation at Moamoa, in what was then called Western Samoa, for the next 14 years.

In 1968 John moved to Safata, where he helped in the school for a year before going to St Paul’s Seminary for late vocations in Kensington, Australia, to study for the priesthood. John was ordained in Herne Bay, Auckland, by the Bishop of Auckland, Reginald Delargey.

He then returned to American Samoa, where he served in the village of Lepua for three years. In 1976 John was appointed to Lepea, a village near Apia on the Island of Upolu in Western Samoa. He worked there until 1993, with the exception of one year in Palauli, on the island of Savai’i, in 1981. He then ministered in the Chatham Islands for 4 years before returning to Lepea where he worked another seven years. He moved to Marian Court, Silverstream, in 2005.

John was a kind, gentle, humble and prayerful person. His spirituality was devotional, and he had a particular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. He always had a smile on his face. He had a gentle sense of humour, always saw the positive side of things, and was inclined to just go with the flow.

He rarely put any one down, but he did sometimes give in to the temptation to bestow secret light-hearted names on people whom he found difficult, names which he shared with only a few people. Fr. Louis Beauchemin was a senior priest in Samoa, a dapper Bostonian, who had an immense enthusiasm about certain things. When he got excited be would leap to his feet and prance around as he held forth. John’s secret name for him was ‘Leapy.’

It is somewhat ironic that John chose to be known as Fr Stan in Samoa. St Stanislaus was the bishop of Cracow and had reputation of being an outstanding orator. John was a man of few words who was not a golden-tongued preacher. His somewhat quirky homilies were simple, down to earth, and based on everyday events. He even managed to draw a moral lesson from the behaviour of that well-known theologian, Donald Duck!

We often confuse goodness with greatness. We can easily suffer from the Kardashian syndrome, worshipping at the shrine of celebrity. We adore the false gods of fame and fortune and efficiency. We are seduced by the spectacular. But when it comes to the end and we stand before God, greatness and fame count for nothing. But goodness does. It is goodness that is the true test of a man. John was a very good man.


1950-1954  Greenmeadows

1954-1968  Moamoa plantation, Samoa

1968       Safata, Samoa

1969-1972  St Paul’s Seminary, Kensington, Sydney NSW

1973-1980  Lepua, American Samoa

1981       Palauli, Samoa

1982-1992  St Theresa’s Parish, Lepea, Samoa

1993-1997  Chatham Islands, on loan to the Bishop of Christchurch

1996       Transferred back to the NZ Province

1998-2004  St Theresa’s Parish, Lepea, Samoa, on loan to Oceania Marist Province

2005-2012  Marian Court, Silverstream Chaplain, Home of Compassion

2015       Home of Compassion Silverstream

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