The diocese of Broome was saddened by the news that its first bishop passed away peacefully at home in Innsbruck, Austria, last week.
Bishop John Jobst, well known throughout the Kimberley as the “flying bishop” for his habit of piloting light aircraft to visit his far-reaching parishioners, died on Saturday, July 5 at the age of 94.
The German-born John Jobst was bishop of the Kimberley region for nearly 37 years, retiring in 1995.
A Pallottine missionary, Bishop Jobst’s love and care for Australia’s first peoples is well known, with many remarking on the man who did so much for Aboriginal people and who passed away as the Diocese of Broome began early celebrations for NAIDOC week (last week) a celebration of Aboriginal culture, history and achievements.
He was a pioneer of remote education in northern WA and helped establish several schools in Aboriginal communities, and was also a founder of Notre Dame University in Broome and a passionate advocate of Indigenous land rights.
Current Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders said Bishop Jobst was interested in schooling in remote Aboriginal communities years before Indigenous education became a government priority.
“He was well known for using his pilot licence to cover his vast bush parish,” Bishop Saunders said.
“He flew those aircraft around the Kimberley, from station to station and from town to town and some of the towns weren’t much of a town then,” he said.
“But he was always willing to cart something, or go out of his way, or pick up someone who was sick or ill.”
Bishop Saunders said his predecessor was a “fiercely determined” man.
“He turned determination into an art form and failure was something that he didn’t live with very well,” he said.
“Hence it was that he started eight remote schools in the Kimberley and was instrumental in getting the University of Notre Dame in Broome going.”
His affection for the “top-end” and the people of the Diocese of Broome was well known, and he returned to Broome on several occasions following his retirement.
“I was told by his carers that his last words were about the Kimberley and wanting to return there. ‘I must go back to the Kimberley. I want to see them (the people). I want to see they are cared for,’” Bishop Saunders said.
Born February 4, 1920 and baptised Johannes – John when translated to English – he was the son of devout Catholic parents and was raised on a farm near Brennberg, Germany.
On leaving school, he joined the Pallottines only to be drafted into the German Army at the outbreak of World War II.
Bishop Jobst returned to the seminary following his compulsory service and was ordained a priest on July 9, 1950.
Appointed to Australia together with Fr John Lenmann, the young Fr Jobst began his ministry at Beagle Bay.
He later went to the Pallottine Australian House of Studies as Spiritual Director, leading to his appointment as Bishop of the Vicariate of the Kimberley in January 1959 and then Bishop of the Diocese of Broome in 1966.
He also attended all four sessions of Vatican II.