Fr David Wilkie '43

Written on the 2 May 2018 by Old Collegians Association

Fr David Wilkie c.p.

Excerpt from 2008 Rostrevor Magazine

A recent contact from Fr David Wilkie C.P. requesting some copies of Annual photos lead to Red&Black soliciting the following, bridged article from Fr David. 

Fr David Wilkie C P.

Most of this article was prepared for the Goodwood Parish quarterly magazine. Linking Us" when I spent six months last year caring for that part of the parish.

There I caught up with old class mates and friends Brian Moyle, Frank Barrett and Gerald Ward, three of us having been born in the same very good year. My present home-base is Hobart -
St. Joseph's Church, in the centre of the city. This is my fourth year there. My younger brother Bob has lived there for 55 years.

My early education began at the Dulwich parish school where I was taught by the Loreto Sisters. In March 1938 I commenced my education at Rostrevor. For Bob and myself our start was delayed due to the fact that there were many cases of infantile paralysis about at that time.

If my memory serves me correctly there were four Wilkies at Rostrevor during March 1938, my two older brothers, Dick and Alan, Bob and myself. Soon afterwards, Dick started work in a bank. two years later he joined the RAAF. On his return home after the war he could not settle down and returned to England to join the RAF. He was killed in an aircraft accident in 1949.

From the 1943 Annual: Prefects Day Students
Front Row: FE Acton, KM Rohlfing, JV Guthrie, FJ Bazeley, P Meegan, WA McKeown, H Hannan
Second Row: JB Barry, DB Wilkie, GM Ward, WR Crook, CL Morriset, RT Hall, J Cota, ID Smith, BJ Barry.

Alan died last year. His two sons, Richard and Peter, attended Rostrevor and now Richard's two sons, Oliver and Callum are there. My time at Rostrevor, 1938- 1943, was mostly war time and yet that seemed very remote from our daily lives. Those were the days of Brothers Mackey, Mogg and Gurr. Probably the most influential teacher for me was Mr. Gus Webb. He taught us in Grade 7 the QC class. He was extremely strict and certainly had me scared. His use of the cane was very cutting. Most of us received it if our homework was not done or up to standard. I guess it paid dividends as in my case I gained a perfect score for Arithmetic in the public QC examinations in 1939. That combined with the Leaving Maths prize in my final year was to have some bearing on my future. So probably did the fact that I received the Christian Doctrine prize in two separate years. Why, puzzled me as I did not expect it. The prize on each occasion. I think, was a picture of the Sacred Heart. My Dad, not being a Catholic, could not see the point of it.

Other than these awards and being one of many prefects in my final year, there was nothing special about my school life. I was not involved much in sporting activities though after I left school I played competitive tennis for 14 years.

I commenced work with the AMP in 1944 and remained in that employment for 14 years, most of the time in Adelaide but also in Clare, Mount Gambier and Port Pirie. On my return to Adelaide from Mt Gambier 1 took up accountancy, as had my three brothers, and was about halfway through the course when the call to Priesthood came after an Old Scholars one day retreat at Rostrevor.

Why with the Passionists? God alone knows. Perhaps it was because of the Passionist who gave the Old Scholars' Retreat and with whom I first talked about it.

From the 1940 Annual: Swimming Carnival at the College.

That was 50 years ago.So, then I trotted off to St. Ives in Sydney for a year, then to Goulburn, NSW for the Novitiate and then to Glen Osmond and finally to Templestowe in Victoria for theological studies. In 1965 Archbishop Beovich ordained me in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier. The 42 years since then have been spent in varied ministries: retreat and parish work in Hobart: parish and admin work in Templestowe: a small number of parish missions; hospital chaplaincy roles in Brisbane and Hobart; parish supplies and missionary work in Papua New Guinea. This latter role in PNG has been the most interesting of all. Having visited there to give retreats in 1984, I unexpectedly found myself accepting a suggestion I could "make a go of it" in PNG. That settled years of wondering. 

My missionary career began in 1986 in the Diocese of Vanimo which was an area which the Passionists had agreed to care for about 20 years earlier, it is on the north coast of PNG, immediately adjacent to the West Irian border more or less the end of the line m PNG. Just over the border is the large city of Jayapura, previously known in the war time as Hollandia. The whole area was occupied by Australian, American and Japanese troops during the war.

Without any introduction to PNC life and culture I was "thrown" into running a very large parish which extended about 25 miles along the coast from the town of Vanimo to the West Irian (Indonesian) border. I slowly learned the language -'tok pisin' (Pidgin English) and managed to cope with the mosquitoes, flies and snakes, as well as the heat and humidity. Due to my accounting experience, it was not long before I was asked to manage the affairs of the Diocese. A little later came the appointment as Vicar General and shortly after that, when the Bishop became ill, I had to run the Diocese. This was something I was totally unprepared for, but slowly, slowly things kept going. Eventually came the appointment as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese. It was almost 4 years before a new Bishop was appointed.

Bob Wilkie, Michael Walsh and Fr David Wilkie at David's 80th birthday party hosted by the Goodwood Parish.

I always had a desire to travel but when I first went to PNG I thought that would be the end of any hope to travel. But it proved to be just the beginning. Because the diocese was in poor financial shape there was a need to use possible avenues to seek finance. Many dioceses in the USA invite groups in need of assistance to make appeals.

in their parishes. This proved to be a very successful means of raising finance for the diocese. As well as other missionaries, I travelled to the US on many occasions for this purpose and I am still engaged in this work. I also travelled to Europe seeking support for our diocese.

I shall always treasure the memories of those many years in that beautiful, but now badly troubled country. I thank God for allowing me to "enjoy" all the varied experiences I had. I ask you all to pray for Papua New Guinea and for all the Missionaries who work there.

David Wilkie C.P.


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