Date of Birth: 26/05/1891
Date of Death: 05/11/1956
Date of Ordination: 11/06/1916
Date of Installation: 30/11/-0001

Fr John Eviston


Early Life

John Eviston was born May 26, 1891 in Loughmore, Co Tipperary in Ireland. His theological studies for the priesthood were undertaken at St Patrick’s College in Thurles and he was ordained to the priesthood in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Thurles on June 11, 1916.

Ministry in Australia

Fr Eviston arrived in Adelaide aboard RMS Omrah on December 22, 1916. 

On arrival he was appointed Assistant Priest to Fr R A Morrison at Salisbury where he served for seven years. Together they created a "new era in Salisbury" organising very effective Church, picnic and social committees. Within six months they had organised the renovation of St Augustine's Church and grounds, and also rebuilt the presbytery. As a result of an accident in late 1917 Fr Eviston spent three months in hospital. He was held in such esteem that on his return the local congregations paid tribute to "his sterling qualities as a priest, and to the charm of his personality which won him friends wherever he went".

While at Salisbury Fr Eviston was chaplain at Yatala Prison for five years. His experience at the prison later influenced his support, in the face of much opposition, to the foundation of the "humane" Kyeema Prison Camp near Willunga which aimed to improve the conditions for prisoners and help their rehabilitation.

Then in late 1923 he was appointed Assistant Priest at Kapunda where he remained for only a few months.

Willunga parish

Then in February 1924 he was appointed Parish Priest of Willunga where he remained for 22 years. Building on his experience at Salisbury he became very involved in the local community. In 1937 he organised the local Catholic Ball, which was attended by more than 360 people, 137 being visitors from Adelaide. He was also a longstanding official at the Willunga Show. He was remembered in Willunga with great affection.

A history compiled by the Willunga Progress Assoc. around 1950 states: "In 1924, there came to Willunga one of the most loved priests in the history of St Joseph's, the gentle, lovable Fr Eviston. This jovial little Irishman became a friend in the truest sense to everyone in the district, irrespective of creed. He was here in the hard years of the depression, and the heartbreaking years of World War II. He was a real pastor to his flock. He stood by many townspeople when their loved ones went to war – or failed to return." During his time the debts was cleared from church and presbytery, and much money was raised for war work and charities. The people of Willunga felt a personal loss when, due to ill health, this much loved priest had to relinquish his post at Willunga and take on easier work.

In January 1946 he left Willunga and took up residence in the priest’s house at the Largs Bay Orphanage. Given his great love for children this was an ideal setting for him in his final years.

During his time in Australia both Fr Eviston's parents died in Tipperary, Ireland. In 1954 he took a year’s leave to visit the home country of Ireland – this was his first visit since leaving in 1916. On his return he suffered ongoing ill health and died in Calvary Hospital on November 5, 1956.

Requiem Mass was offered for Fr Eviston on November 7 and his burial was in the Centennial Park Cemetery.

May he rest in peace.

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