While Father John Cranley’s recent passing was a sad occasion for the Archdiocese of Perth, it reignited fond memories among both parishioners and ex-students of different Perth parishes and Australian Oblate colleges.
The beloved and popular West Australian priest took his last breath on 11 May 2015 in St John of God, Subiaco, not far from where he was born 82 years prior.
An incredibly talented teacher and educator, particularly in the fields of science and mathematics, Fr Cranley devoted more than 55 years to serving the Catholic Church and the Oblate congregation.
He lived a remarkable and eventful life filled with unexpected changes that saw his often carefully crafted plans crumble in front of the much greater events that God had in store for him.
Born into a large Irish family in 1933, Fr Cranley attended a local Catholic Primary School before going to St Louis’ College (later John XXIII College) for his secondary studies. He quickly distinguished himself as a high-achieving student and showed potential in both sport and cadets.
The Cranley family was well known to the Oblates in Fremantle as Fr Cranley was growing up. A speech by Oblate Father Henry McFall OMI to the senior classes at St Louis’ must have struck with the young Fr Cranley as he decided to join the Oblates soon after.
In March 1953, Fr Cranley travelled to the Oblate Novitiate at Sorrento, Victoria, where he pronounced his first vows and was subsequently sent to Ireland, specifically at Piltown, Co Kilkenny, for his priestly duties.
Fr Cranley pronounced his final vows as an Oblate in 1956 and, on 21 September 1958, was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Collier in the Oblate Seminary of Piltown.
A year later, he returned to Australia to devote the next 33 years of his life to university studies and teaching.
Fr Cranley would often say that he never saw himself in the role of teacher. He would remind his students that he had joined the Oblates, not the Jesuits, who had taught him previously, precisely because the teaching profession was not on his priority list.
However, Fr Cranley was never one to shy away from the unexpected twists and turns of life, which he often saw as new paths forged by God, and he soon filled, quite professionally, the shoes of science and mathematics teacher.
Fr Cranley taught in in three Australian Oblate Colleges: Iona College (1959-72; 1976-80; 1987-89), Mazenod College, WA (1973-76; 1981-86 as Rector) and Mazenod College, Victoria (1990–92).
He became Parish Priest of the Holy Family Parish in Kalamunda, WA, where he remained until 1995 when he joined the adjacent Lesmurdie Oblate community.
This transition into parish life gave Fr Cranley a much awaited opportunity to be close to his family and pursue his longstanding hobby of following the West Coast Eagles football team. Rottnest Island was a favourite family gathering spot in which the only things that improved the beaches and wonderful scenery were card games and family events.
Fr Cranley was also known for his skilful ability to pursue an argument. It has been said that a discussion with Fr Cranley would often end in either the silence of his interlocutor or his pungent, “what would you want to do that for?”
As the 100 tributes on the Mazenod Old Boys Association social media page demonstrate, he was a respected and appreciated teacher who made a strong impression on his pupils.
Former parishioners fondly remember the kindness, warmth and priestly care of a man committed to his faith and the Oblate community.
Fr John Cranley is a name that will undoubtedly not be forgotten quickly.
The funeral for Fr John Cranley OMI was celebrated by Fr Leo Misfud OMI at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Lesmurdie on Friday, 15 May. He was laid to rest in the Oblate plot at Fremantle Cemetery.
With the kind assistance and collaboration of Fr Don Hughes OMI