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Fr Denis John Ward
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Birth: Jun. 5, 1951
Death: May 18, 2010

"Go forth, Christian soul, from this world in the name of God the Almighty Father, who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you, go forth, faithful Christian. May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion, with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with Joseph, and all the angels and saints". (Prayer of Commendation from "Commendation of the Dying").

These were the last words that Fr. Denis Ward OFM. Cap., heard as he was leaving this world to meet Sister Death. After enduring a painful battle with cancer, Fr. Denis died in the arms of his loving family and Friars at 9.03 am., of Tuesday, May 18, 2010, at Mercy Private Hospital, Melbourne. His passing was described as peaceful and serene. He was 58 years of age.

Fr. Denis was born in Beaudesert, South East Queensland, on June 5, 1951, and was the eldest of six children of Kathleen and Brendan Ward. He grew up working on his family dairy farm in Kerry for 20 years and was expected to take over the farm. However, his life took "a dramatic change at about 4 pm., on July 20, 1975," when he sustained a serious hip injury during a rugby game which landed him in hospital for five weeks. As he was lying on a stretcher in the ambulance on the way to the hospital he made a bargain with God: "If You get me out of this I'll do anything you want". Fr. Denis eventually made a full recovery and began discerning his vocation to the Priesthood. He enquired with the Capuchins in Wynnum North. He described that he felt "ecstatic" when he was speaking to Br. Joseph, who would later become Monsignor Joseph Oudeman OFM. Cap., Auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane.

Denis then joined the Capuchins in 1987, together with Fr. Robert Stewart and Br. Laurie Sweeper. Being 35 years old, he was considered as a "late vocation". He made his First Profession on January 15, 1989, and was ordained to the Priesthood at 44 years of age on June 1, 1996.

Shortly thereafter, he moved to St. Anthony's Shrine, Hawthorn, Melbourne, where he was the local Superior and Student Director. He was one of the main Formators for the Capuchin Friars in Australia. The young Friars on returning from the Novitiate in the USA., were under his charge as they integrated the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience into the practicality of living the Capuchin life in a working fraternity. Fr. Denis also ministered to the young people of Melbourne and was always available for confession, weddings, baptisms, attending to people in deep spiritual need. He was always reaching out to people from all walks of life. As a preacher, he was blessed with a profound insight into the life of Christ, and was able to explain complex theological issues with compelling simplicity. He had a great devotion to the Divine Mercy and the Rosary. The message that Fr. Denis always tried to bring across to people is that God the Father is full of love and mercy. He was always gentle to the people who came to him for spiritual advice and confession.

His farming background instilled him with a good practical wisdom, that, as a Priest, he was able to combine with the mercy of Christ experienced through the sacraments, especially the sacrament of confession. The young people experience a paternal concern for them when they approached Fr. Denis with their problems, confusions, questions, and especially in their sadness and anguish caused by their sins. They felt confident in approaching Fr. Denis that he would not be scandalized by them, but, rather, would bring them to a meeting with the divine mercy of Jesus Christ, through exercising his priesthood. They could walk away with hope renewed. In December 2008, Fr. Denis was made Minister Provincial, at which time, he moved to Sydney. However, not long after, he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and in December 2009, he moved back to Hawthorn.

The presence at St. Anthony's Shrine, Hawthorn of Archbishop Denis Hart at the Rosary Vigil and the presence at the Funeral Mass of Auxiliary Bishop Peter Elliott, Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta, around 32 Priests, many religious men and women, seminarians, and a full Church, with a large representation of young people, was a testament that Fr. Denis had touched so many people's lives. In a faithful living out of his Priesthood and Religious Life he gave himself to the service of many different realties in the Church of the wider Melbourne area and beyond. The shrine was packed with tearful mourners who loved Fr. Denis so very much. In his homily, Fr. Gary Devery OFM. Cap., Minister Provincial, mentioned that when he was sorting out the paper work for Fr. Denis, he was surprised to find Fr. Denis' signing in his first profession document, "Br. Denis Ward of the Holy Rosary." After the Mass everyone was claiming Fr. Denis as his or her "best friend" as they explained his uncanny capacity to enter into their lives. Every second person was claiming that Fr. Denis was his or her spiritual director, advisor or confessor. There were so many stories about how Fr. Denis had touched someone's very inner being. People said that he was so "accessible" and "humble" and "earthy" and "warm".

On Monday, May 24, at 10.30 am., the Mass of the Solemnity of Our Lady Help of Christians was celebrated for Fr. Denis at St. Fiacre's, Leichhardt, with the coffin present in the Church. At the Mass, Fr. Denis was surrounded by many of the Friars, including Bishop Joseph Oudeman OFM Cap., religious and his friends. The burial took place after the Mass at Rookwood Catholic Cemetery in the Capuchin Section. 
Rookwood Necropolis
Cumberland Council
New South Wales, Australia
Plot: Capuchin Section.
Created by: Eman Bonnici
Record added: Dec 11, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 62786796
Fr Denis John Ward
Added by: Eman Bonnici
Fr Denis John Ward
Added by: Eman Bonnici
Fr Denis John Ward
Added by: Eman Bonnici
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