Father John Wood, SJ

Born: 26 September 1913, Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
Entered: 11 September 1931, St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois, Ireland
Ordained: 19 May 1945, Zi-Ka-Wei, Shanghai, China
Final Vows: 02 February 1949, Holy Spirit Seminary, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Died: 26 March 2000, Kingsmead Hall, Singapore

Father Wood was assigned to Hong Kong in 1939 as World War II was just breaking out. Two years were spent learning Cantonese. He began his theological studies in 1942 in Xijiahui (Zikawei), Shanghai. He was ordained on 19 May 1945 with Fathers Timothy Doody, SJ, Matthew Corbally, SJ and Joseph McAsey, SJ, all of whom spent most of their working lives in Hong Kong.

After a short stay in Ireland Father Wood returned to Hong Kong in 1947 to teach philosophy in the Regional Seminary in Aberdeen, becoming Rector in 1957.

When the Regional Seminary closed in 1964 he went to Malaysia and did parish work in St Francis Xavier, Petaling Jaya, where he was also superior. He was the fourth Parish Priest of SFX PJ from 1969 to 1978.

During his tenure as Parish Priest from 1969, Father Wood used to say home Masses in Sections 5, 10, 11, 12, 17 and particularly in Section 14/3. By 1974, regular community meetings were being held on the first Monday of each month. SFX was developing rapidly as a parish and groups like the Wardens and Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) played a big part. Sunday school groups began to increase and Father Wood had to enclose the basement to get more rooms for Sunday school. He established the choir as a regular feature of the Sunday liturgy. He was also instrumental in forming a liturgical group in which Sr Enda Ryan played a leading role. An enterprise of major significance towards the end of Father Wood’s term in SFX was the opening of the parish library and the Jesuit community was persuaded to surrender its collection of books for the common good.

In 1978 Father Wood was transferred to St Ignatius’ Parish, Singapore because of the problem of obtaining a visa in Malaysia. He remained engaged in pastoral work there until the end of his life. In 1982, he was made parish priest of the Church of St Ignatius.

He brought with him his vast experience in leading the charismatic group at St Francis Xavier Church, Petaling Jaya. This also led to his involvement with the Singapore Archdiocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal (SACCRE). In 1990, Father Wood initiated the first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service in Singapore.

He conducted Marriage Encounter sessions and was also involved in the Engagement Encounter programme which was at the time desperately short of priests. He was also involved in the Choice Weekend. One of his major roles was a spiritual director of the church’s Legion of Mary praesidia — there were seven in all.

He took over as superior of Kingsmead Hall from Father Egan who had been reassigned to Hong Kong.

He was a gentle, unassuming man with a keen sense of humour, a good superior, zealous pastor, always ready to be of service to others. Wherever he went he made many friends and was much esteemed and loved by those who know him. Many parishioners fondly nicknamed him Father Kayu more for his deadpan expression than his name. His penchant for combining a poker face with witty one liners frequently led to explosions of laughter.

Few parishioners knew that Father Wood had lost the use of one eye after an operation in Europe some years earlier. Indeed, he had even undergone a second operation on his eye in May 1964.

Father Wood was 81 when he celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a Jesuit priest on 27 May 1995 with a concelebrated Mass and dinner that was attended by the community and parishioners. He was the first Jesuit to mark 50 years of priesthood in Singapore. In his homily, he said that when he turned 60, he had prayed to survive to 65; and when his 65th birthday came, he prayed to reach 70, then 75. After that, he left the matter in the Lord’s hands. Father Wood passed away on 26 March 2000 at the age of 86.

Book: 50 years of the parish of the Church of St Ignatius, 2012

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