Parish Outreach

Brother John Blyth

Father John Blyth

Br. John Blyth served as a priest in the Diocese of Caledonia (northern British Columbia) until 1980. While there he was adopted into the Nisga'a Nation. He was then dean of Calgary for six years and chaplain to the Vancouver School of Theology for nine years.

In 1995, he felt a call join Volunteers in Mission and go to the South Pacific. Not long after his arrival, he was appointed Principal of Bishop Patteson Theological College at Kohimarama, on Guadalcanal west of Honiara.

In 1999, he started working with the Melanesian Brothers, whose headquarters were nearby at Tabalia. He was soon invited to join them. He is the second of just three non-Melanesians to have been admitted to the Brotherhood.

In 2003, Br. John was sent to open a new house for the Brotherhood in Palawan, the first in the Philippines. This done, he returned to the motherhouse at Tabalia to be "Soul Friend" and spiritual mentor to the 150 novices and brothers there.

Nov. 1, 2005, Br. John moved back to Canada and became involved with the Mission to Seamen on the Vancouver waterfront and with the Underleaf Ministry to Nisga'as living in Vancouver. He is now an honourary assistant priest at St. James' Church in Vancouver. Each winter he returns to Tabalia for three months to teach courses in prayer and spirituality to the novices.

Br. John was back to Vanuatu and the Solomons Sept. 10 to Nov. 10, 2006 to teach, to attend the Brotherhood's regional conference, and to visit as inter-island transportation allowed. He returned to us on Feb. 10, 2007 with greetings from the Archbishop, Sir Ellison Pogo, and tales of the convivial household of Bishop Terry Brown of Malaita.

Melanesian Chaplains at Lambeth Conference

In July 2008, Br. John led a delegation of Melanesian Brothers, Melanesian Sisters, Sisters of the Church and Franciscans who had been invited by then Archbishop of Melanesia, Sir Ellison Pogo, to serve as chaplains to the 14th Lambeth Conference. They provided spiritual support to the more than 650 bishops who attended this decennial conference convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

In 2009 Br. John established in the Solomon Islands a program of Theological Education by Extension similar to one that he had established in the Nass Valley of BC in the 1960s. He taught it to members of the four Anglican religious orders in the Solomon Islands who would then train tutors who would offer it to the wider community.

In January 2010, Br. John headed off to Tabalia expecting to teach the novices for a term, but Head Brother re-assigned him to lead five brothers in a mission to St. John's Seminary in Aukland New Zealand for all of Lent. They had been invited to initiate a tradition of community worship at the seminary, where many students live off-campus. On weekends, the brothers were whisked around the country to visit other cities and churches.

At the end of January 2011 he returned to Tabalia to teach the three prayer and spirituality courses which he could not teach on the 2010 visit. He will visit novices at the regional headquarters in Popondetta, Papua New Guinea, if possible.

In October 2011, Br. John travelled to England for the graduation from Chester University of two brothers, and for a retreat with the Franciscans at Hilfield Priory in Dorset. He began with a visit with Fr. Richard Carter, past Chaplain to the Brotherhood and now Priest-in-Charge (until July 2012) at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London.

Br. Jeffrey and Br. Nelson had been studying at Chester University for three years, supported by Chester Diocese and the local Companions. As graduation day approached, they noticed that their student visas were to expire three days before the day of the ceremony. Surely they could obtain an extension of a few days to complete their stay? Entreaties by the two brothers, university officials, church officials and Companions for a four day extension of their visas elicited only refusals from the UK Border Agency. Horrified by this uncharitable response, the University staged a private graduation service for the two, with full ceremony and regalia, in the University Chapel. The Vice-Chancellor awarded them their degrees and hosted a reception afterward. On the positive side, this private ceremony allowed rather more guests to attend (lecturers, students, Companions and friends) than the brothers would have been allotted for the general graduation ceremony which they could not attend.

From February through April 2012, Br. John was to have been at Tabalia to teach three courses in prayer and spirituality to the three levels of novices, and to lead the dozen or so resident brothers through the Ignatian Exercises, but a hurricane prevented him from getting closer than Vanuatu and had washed out all the road bridges leading to Tabalia, so he reluctantly cancelled and came home.