The Southern Cross : December 09
By Jenny Brinkwort h As a schoolboy living in suburban Sydney, John Shanahan would take a 25-minute train ride to the heart of Sydney to see the ocean liners ber thed in the harbour before they headed off to the United States, Asia and the United Kingdom. It was the early seventies and the Boeing 747 hadn't yet hit the skies. John would line up for a boarding pass to spend the day on one of the magnificent vessels and so his love affair with sea travel began. Such was his passion that the young De La Salle Ashfield student managed to get his parents to agree to pay for a cruise on the Oriana to Auckland, Tonga and Fiji if he successfully completed his studies. But John had another dream, one that he'd had since the age of five, and that was to become a priest. The very Irish Catholic Shanahan family was well-accustomed to members of the extended family entering religious life. " W e were a very religious family and our ancestors were held in high regard -- the Shanahans living in Bacchus Marsh in the early 1900s sold their herd to buy bricks for the church," says Father Shanahan. "We had a lot of relatives in religious o r ders -- a Cistercian monk, two Redemptorist priests, a Josephite nun ... it was in the blood." But when Fr Shanahan first decided to join the Marist fathers in Sydney, his mother was so upset at the prospect of losing her last child (his one and only sister is 10 years older) that she off e r e d to buy him a trip around the world. "It wasn't the priesthood that worried her, it was the fact that she wouldn't be able to see me much," he said. After 18 months in the Marist seminary, John realised he wasn't yet ready for the priesthood and, not surprisingly, gained employment with P&O in Sydney. He made the most of the oppor tunity to travel to Melbourne several times for $39 which at least gave him a few nights on his beloved ocean liners. "Itwasabitofathrillandatasteof cruiselife,"he recalls. However, the priesthood remained his dream and through the Wagga Wagga Diocese he entered the seminary at R o s t revor in Adelaide in 1977 and was o r dained in 1984. These formative years sparked a strong affection for Adelaide which remains today. This is despite having lived in Wagga for 16 years, during which time he gained his Bachelor Degree and Masters Degree in Sociology and oversaw the development of St Francis residential college at Charles Stur t University. Called back to Adelaide to be rector of Aquinas College, he spent four years t h e re before moving on to Kapunda. His two years in this bountiful region only enhanced his attraction to the "re l a x e d atmosphere and beauty" of South Australia. His 20 years' experience teaching and studying in universities and his four years as rector at Aquinas College is evident when Fr Shanahan officiates at school Masses, which he does regularly as part of his current duties as parish priest for St Mary's and Seacombe Gardens parishes. Chapel Mass at Sacred Hear t Middle School on a Friday morning is growing in popularity as parents, parishioners and students are enthralled by his engaging style of interpreting the Gospel. "I guess it's my immaturity -- I'm just a big kid," he laughs. "I ask questions and try to engage children ... it's the same when I teach sociology at Flinders; you have to find ways to motivate people and make it real. " One of his aims is to forge stronger links between the parish and schools thro u g h weekend school Masses, including a new Christmas Eve ser vice at SHC Middle School. R e g a rdl ess of where he's preaching, it's clear that he has been heavily influenced by his love of travel, with stories from far away places easily retold. His connection with sea travel continues as he works as chaplain on cruise ships during his holidays. On board he says Mass daily and sometimes conducts ecumenical ser vices. For tunately he h a s n ' t had any major mishaps although he once did a Committal of Ashes c e rem ony because the husband passed awayjust beforethe cruise. His travels have taken him to St Petersburg, Santorini, Istanbul, Odessa, Peru, Aruba, Barbados, Buenos A i r es, the Falkland Islands, to name just a few. "I've met some fascinating people," he says. On a trip to the Antarctica he stru c k up a friendship with Associated Pre s s c o rrespondent Hugh Mulligan who was inspired to write about Fr Shanahan's saying Mass in a widely published travel article. Despite his dual passions, Fr Shanahan has no re g rets about the path he has taken: "I would do it again -- it's been a v e r y good life and I'm very happy," he says. One thing is for cer tain, he will never be lonely while he has his two beloved companions -- Annie Clare and Te s s i e . The Newfoundland dogs occupy a larg e space in his life and help keep him fit by waking him up each morning for a walk down the beach. Page 16 December 2009 The Southern Cross www.adelaide.catholic.org.au vocations Boarding pass to God A r chbishop Philip Wilson has announced two new parish appointments. Father John Herd has been appointed assistant priest in the Salisbur y Parish and Father Jack Boog will be priest in residence at Modbur y / P a r a Hills parish where he will assist Father Peter Milburn. Fr Boog will continue his ministr y with the National Leadership of Mar riage Encounter. A r chbishop Wilson thanked Fr Herd and Fr Boog for accepting these i m p o r tant positions. Parish appointments PORT OF CALL: Fr Shanahan calls Adelaide home now.