|Birth: ||Aug. 31, 1954|
|Death: ||Dec. 19, 2010|
Born in Rabat, Malta, on August 31, 1954, to Carmelo Abela and Victoria Micallef, Friar John Abela OFM., carried out secondary education at the Secondary Technical School and entered the Order of Friars Minor in the Maltese Franciscan Province of Saint Paul the Apostle as a Postulant at St. Francis's Friary of Ħamrun. Beginning his novitiate on October 3, 1971 at St. Anthony's Friary on the island of Gozo, he made his temporary profession on October 1, 1972. Abela studied philosophy at St. Mary of Jesus Friary in Rabat and made his solemn profession on August 22, 1976.
Studying theology in Jerusalem at the Franciscan International Seminary of St. Saviour's Monastery in the Holy Land Custody, he was ordained to the priesthood by the Archbishop of Malta, Msgr. Joseph Mercieca, on July 7, 1979. Following his ordination he was sent for further studies at the Pontificium Athenaeum Antonianum in Rome where he acquired a licentiate in philosophy with specialization in pedagogy.
Upon returning to the Maltese Franciscan Province, he became master of students in the Franciscan Seminary at Ħamrun and subsequently ministered at the Friary of St. Mary of Jesus in Valletta and at "Dar Frate Francesco" in Birkirkara. He was also Provincial Secretary and Provincial Definitor between 1990 and 1996.
One of his main areas of ministry was with young people, particularly as a Vocations Animator and a play writer. The author of numerous plays with a socio-religious message presented at the Catholic Institute in Floriana, particularly on the occasion of Holy Week, his works include: "Sallabtni"; "Meħlusin"; "Ħati?"; "L-Imsikket"; "Int Fejn Sejjer?"; "Ħabbar is-Sliem"; "Kontra l-Gestapo"; and "Sikktuħ".
Interested in Maltese literature since his secondary education, he "discovered" theatre in his formation years with the Franciscans. Ever since he began writing, directing and producing Maltese original plays, breaking new ground. Some of these plays have also been published in booklet form and year in year out they are performed by many theatre groups around the Maltese Islands. From 1982 till 1996, he directed the house theatre company MASK, at the Catholic Institute of Floriana. It was a period of intensive work and experience where many of today's established actors and TV personalities and actors were formed. The list is too long to publish: all local TV channels have acquired these talents which were introduced to public performance by MASK. Those were years when MASK was synonym with excellence. Since 1996, Fr. John joined SKENE at Luqa, a new challenge which he undertook with enthusiasm.
Together with other Maltese Franciscans he collaborated in many new areas of apostolate, particularly in the "Żjara Franġiskana", or popular missions to the Parishes, and in the launching of a telephone counseling service. But his most important field of activity was that of a pioneer in the area of cyber technology and communication through Internet.
It is thanks to Abela that the Maltese Franciscan Province was one of the first Provinces of the Franciscan Order to have its own website in 1995. Through his ability in the field he also pioneered the launching of the website of the Holy Land Custody, in collaboration with the "Studium Biblicum Franciscanum" of Jerusalem.
His links with the Holy Land Custody run deep. For nearly thirty years he took part in the annual archaeological excavations at Mount Nebo and other Byzantine sites in Jordan, under the leadership of the famous Franciscan archaeologist Fr. Michele Piccirillo OFM., († 2008), of whom he was a close collaborator.
From 1996 till his death he resided at the General Curia of the Order of Friars Minor in Rome where he was responsible for the Communications Office and was webmaster of the official website of the Order.
In the meantime he continued his contacts with the Holy Land, as a spiritual animator of pilgrims, both from Malta and from Canada and the USA. Keeping alive his links with the Holy Land, he taught Biblical Geography and published two books in Maltese: "Il-Bibbja fl-Ambjent Tagħha", a geographical and historical introduction to the Bible, and "Fl-Art Imqaddsa mal-Franġiskani". One of his works "Via Crucis – it-Triq tas-Salib" has been translated in English, set up on the Internet and is used by thousands all over the world. It has been translated in polish and set online too.
Abela participated in 29 archaeological excavation campaigns held by the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (Jerusalem), in Jordan (Mt. Nebo, Machaerus, Madaba, Nitl, Umm al-Rasas, Mukhayyet, Wadi Mousa, Ain Kaniseh), and mosaic restoration projects there. An authorized pilgrims leader in Israel, he led pilgrimages to the Holy Land for fifteen years.
He furthermore posted many entries on the Holy Places in the Custody's website. In 2009, he became webmaster of a new website, itau.org featuring entries and publications in English by a group of Maltese Franciscans. Shortly before his death, he collaborated in planning the presentation of e-books on the same site.
Abela passed away on Sunday, December 19, 2010, at 9.30 am., aged 56, whilst recovered at the S. Pietro Hospital of Rome, where he was admitted three weeks earlier after suffering a heart attack. Cardiac insufficiency provoked renal failure, complicated by diabetes, emphysema and low blood pressure.
Following the celebration of a Funeral Mass at the Franciscan Curia in Rome, on Monday, December 20, at 17.30 pm., his remains were transferred to Malta, where another Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Franciscan Friary of Rabat, on Friday, December 24. Interment followed at the Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery, inside the chapel of the Order of Friars Minor.
Santa Maria Addolorata Cemetery
Southern Harbour, Malta
Plot: Chapel Of The Maltese Province Of The Order Of Friars Minor, Upon The Remains Of Father Leonard Magro († 1983).
Created by: Eman Bonnici
Record added: Jan 08, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 63897873
Rest-in-Peace, Godspeed Friar John.|
Added: Mar. 11, 2011
Strieħ Fis-Sliem, Għażiż "Putri" Ġwann!|
Added: Jan. 8, 2011