Priest's life of war, passion and friendship

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Fr John Chokolich was born in a Dalmatian village in 1917 and arrived in Western Australia in 1924 with his uncle Josip. 

John loved the Mass and its ceremonies. He learned to be an altar boy at St Brigid's, West Perth. Archbishop Clune asked him if he had ever thought of being a priest and he admitted that he would love to be one. 

Just before he began his study, John was asked why he wanted to be a priest.

He replied that he wanted to say Mass, to lead the people in prayer, to bless the people and to save souls. He carried these ideals he carried with him throughout his long life. He continued to say Mass in English, Italian, Latin and Croatian into his old age.

Archbishop Prendiville arranged for John to study at Propaganda College in Rome together with the future Cardinal, James Knox. But there was a problem. 

John loved his time in Rome, attending Mass in St Peter's, witnessing the funeral of Pope Pius XI and the election of Pope Pius XII. In later years, he was in Rome with Fr Harry Brennan at the time of the funeral of Pope Paul VI, the election and funeral of Pope John Paul I and the election of Pope John Paul II.

Life continued on at the College of Propaganda Fide but the streets were filled with crowds of Fascist sympathisers cheering the speeches of Mussolini. One day, in the company of other students, he ran an Italian army blockade twice, calling out as he ran the famous Mussolini word "vinceremo" (we shall win). 

During the first years of the war the war sirens disturbed the air every night and then there were German soldiers in the streets of Rome. The Villa and part of the College Chapel were destroyed by bombing and a nun was killed. John kept a diary during the war documenting the way it affected the life of the students.

Because of the war, his ordination was brought forward to December, 1941. 

After arriving back in Australia, his first appointment was as Assistant Priest to Mgr Langmead at Osborne Park. There were many Croatians and Italians in the area. He spent the next four decades in parish ministry.

After a long and eventful working life, Fr John wrote his memoirs. He died on June 3 and is buried with Fr Albert Lynch and surrounded by his fellow priests at Karrakatta. 

FULL OBITUARY: A life of war, passion and friendship: Father Chokolich dies (Catholic Record)

LINKS:

Archdiocese of Perth

Pontifical Urbaniana University (Wikipedia)

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