By Glynnis Grainger
Monsignor John Anthony Barden, a beloved priest of the Geraldton diocese, passed away after a long illness on March 7.
A Pontifical concelebrated Requiem Mass, presided over by Bishop Justin Bianchini, was held on March 15 at St John’s Church in Rangeway.
Mgr Barden was 84 and family, friends and former parishioners filled the church to capacity as they paid tribute to an outstanding pastor, in the same church where he served as parish priest for 18 years, building it from scratch with the help of his parishioners.
Geraldton Vicar-General Fr Michael Morrissey led the prayers at the vigil and viewing the night before and spoke of Mgr Barden’s priestly attributes that he remembered well from his days as a young priest.
Mgr Barden prepared his funeral liturgy years ago as his health began to deteriorate.
His choice of readings and hymns reflected his deep faith in Jesus Christ and his firm belief in Heaven.
This, as Bishop Bianchini continued in his homily, was what held him in the priesthood and kept him faithful as a priest for 61 years.
Wayne Passmore, who gave the eulogy for his uncle, said, “Jesus was everything to him”.
Mgr Barden was born in Mullewa on July 20, 1929 to Ernest Barden and Janet Elsie (nee Nairn) and was raised in a family of nine children.
He received primary education from the Presentation Sisters at Mullewa and secondary from the Christian Brothers at St Patrick’s College in Geraldton.
He entered St Charles’ Seminary in Guildford in 1945 where he excelled academically, then went on to Rome to complete his priestly formation.
A gifted student, John Barden obtained a licentiate degree in Sacred Theology from Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide (now Pontifical Urbaniana University).
He was ordained in Rome by Pietro Cardinal Fumisoni-Biondi in 1952.
Returning to Geraldton in 1953 after completing his studies, he was appointed assistant priest at the Cathedral.
He had a brief stint in the outback where he was acting parish priest at Cue, Meekatharra and Wiluna from February to November 1961, and then as parish priest of Wittenoom from 1962 to 1963.
A man of many talents, he was entrusted the Geraldton Cathedral Parish as its administrator from 1963 to 1976, a role in which he excelled strongly.
In October 1971, Pope Paul VI promoted Fr Barden to the title of Monsignor, in recognition of almost 20 years’ service to the Geraldton diocese.
He was appointed parish priest of St John’s Rangeway in 1976. Under his leadership, considerable progress was made in the field of Catholic education.
New schools were opened at Beachlands, Rangeway and Wonthella and the existing schools at Bluff Point, Stella Maris and St Patrick’s College were expanded to cater for more classes and students.
Mgr Barden served as diocesan consultor and Vicar-General under Bishop Barry Hickey, and subsequently as diocesan administrator inter-regnum from August 1991 to May 1992 following Bishop Hickey’s appointment as Archbishop of Perth and while the Geraldton diocese awaited its next Bishop, Justin Bianchini.
He retired to Perth in 1994, finishing in his role as diocesan Vicar-General.
Mr Passmore concluded his eulogy: “May you rest in peace ‘Mons’ and rejoice in being with those family members that have gone before you. Yours was a full life lived in God’s service.”