28 College Street Caroline Springs, VIC, 3023 | Phone: 03 8361 9822 |


Homily at Fr John Tollan’s Funeral Mass – By Very Rev. John Salvano

On Thursday 24 November 2005, John wrote to the Vicar General of the time, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, applying to be appointed first parish priest of Caroline Springs. In that letter he wrote:

The formation of the parishioners is rooted in the celebration of the Eucharist. It is not simply about membership, but about discipleship, and therefore the need to bring all parishioners into the vitality of the Church and parish life that has Christ at its centre.

The “holy Communion” received at Eucharist forms the parish into a “holy community”. As a consequence, its members take on the spiritual responsibility of returning some portion of their times, talents and treasure to build up the Body of Christ. These three go together – communion, community and stewardship.

That pretty much sums up John’s priestly life and identity: a life of service that was sustained by the Bread of Life, the people around him, and his quiet and dedicated stewardship of the flock entrusted to him.

John was born in New Zealand on 23 December 1953, but received his primary school education at Sacred Heart, Sandringham – in the same class as my sister, Suzanne. Perhaps that is why John sported an Australian accent. The family returned to NZ later after his father’s work here was completed.

John was ordained on 6 December 1990 in New Zealand. His ordination card quoted tonight’s second reading from Corinthians : we are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure –  which summed up John’s deep humility in the face of God. The reality was that John was deeply aware of his own fragility. His faith was deep and thoughtful, and he knew that God carried him. To quote again from the second reading: it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord and ourselves as your servants.

After ordination, he served in three parishes in Auckland as well as undertaking ministry in the seminary. 

He returned to Australia in January 1995, but when the hoped for course he wished to do did not eventuate, John offered to undertake pastoral ministry within the Archdiocese. For his first year and a half he was given hospitality at St Joseph’s, Northcote by Fr Geoff Baron. That hospitality from Geoff continued throughout John’s time here, and John enjoyed Geoff’s seaside house at Rye on his day off and for sabbatical leave. There were many long and entertaining lunches on a Monday with his priest friends as John held court.

John’s first appointment here was to St Peter Julian’s, Mooroolbark where he assisted Fr Paul Garland, a much-loved academic and eccentric pastor. Perhaps John matched him well! He then went to East Bentleigh, which he found difficult through no fault of his own. After only a few months there he was made Administrator of Chelsea Parish, and eventually Parish Priest there. His affection for the parish and its people was personified in Chelsea the dog, his companion throughout the rest of his time in the Archdiocese, and who returned with him to NZ. 

In 2004, John moved to Hampton Park as Parish Priest, but eighteen months later, the first new parish to be formed in the Archdiocese for eighteen years was announced, and John decided it was a challenge he could relish. He applied for the parish, and on 18 January 2006 moved in to temporary accommodation in Caroline Springs as he began the journey with the parishioners to build a community and a home.

There were several memorable holidays for John with Geoff Baron and myself, and later with Kevin McIntosh as well. These were planned with precision and anticipation much like a military campaign, and John took upon himself to be navigator and critic of our driving and organisational abilities in Europe. 

It was during one of these trips that John fell seriously ill and was hospitalised in the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. It took him a long time to get back to his old self – if ever he did. He reminded us for years afterwards that he almost died – which he stated with relish and grim humour.

John’s sense of humour was sardonic. He could always find a dark cloud in a clear sunny sky, but he could also laugh at himself and the absurdities of life. He was most tender with Chelsea the dog, who was as devoted to him as he was to her. He could be somewhat less tender with people he thought were being ridiculous.

John’s departure from Melbourne remained a puzzle for his friends here, but it was a turning point and John began the journey “home” – to his family, and to the God who had steadfastly walked with him through life.

The words of Pope Francis to the priests of the world on the Feast of St John Vianney – patron of parish priests – could have been directly personally to John:

 You have quietly left all behind in order to immerse yourself in the daily life of your community. You served in the trenches, bearing the burden of the day and the heat, confronting an endless variety of situations in your effort to care for and accompany God’s people. Despite the hardships of the journey, you have written the finest pages of the priestly life. Thank you for being a merciful shepherd.

Rest quietly from your labours, good and faithful servant.

St Catherine Of Siena Parish Mass Schedule

Mass Schedule

Monday:  9:30am

Tuesday: 7:00pm
Wednesday:  9:30am
Thursday:  9:30am
Friday:  9:30am

Saturday: 9:30am & 6:00pm
Sunday:  8:30am, 10:30am & 12:30pm


Tuesday: 6:00 pm

Saturday:  8:45 am, 10:00 am and 5:00 pm or by appointment if these times don’t suit.