Father John-Julian, OJN, a tribute from Rev. Dr Luke Penkett, OJN, CJN

Father John-Julian was born into Heaven on Thursday 15th July 2021, at about 3.30 a.m. local time, after a bout of pneumonia. Following a broken hip, Fr John-Julian had spent a brief spell in hospice in Waukesha, near his hermitage, in Wisconsin.  

Fr John-Julian, or Fr John Swanson as he was known some forty odd years ago, founded the Order of Julian of Norwich in Connecticut in 1985 with the express desire to stimulate contemplative prayer and witness ‘as a leaven of spiritual renewal’ in the Episcopal Church in America. The order today, which has affiliates – both Oblates and Associates – throughout the world, is grounded in daily Eucharist and the Divine office in the spirit of our Mother, the Lady Julian.

In our Library on the Julian Campus here in Norwich we not only have a written description of the early years of the Community (Fr John-Julian met with Sr Pamela CAH to find out all about the community she belonged to), we also have a note attached to a rich and voluminous file in Fr Robert Llewelyn’s hand stating that the included documents are invaluable notes ‘written by Fr John-Julian.’

We have his beautifully presented translation of the Revelations of Divine Love, together with hymns, interlinear translations, an index for A Lesson of Love (Fr John-Julian’s title for his translation), Letters to Jacob (on contemplation), and a copy of another of his books, The Call to the Monastic Life: A Consideration of the Monastic Vocation in Contemporary America.

It was this last which made – and continues to make – a deep impression on me. I left l’Église Orthodoxe Celtique a few years ago now, as I felt called to live the rest of my life as a solitary contemplative monk, something that I couldn’t live out in my previous monastic order. Fr John-Julian’s The Call to the Monastic Life pointed the way forward. I was unable for various health reasons to emigrate to America to join the community there but Mthr Hilary, the present Guardian, welcomed me – as a priest (in order to self-communicate) and a professed monk – to the Community as an Oblate, something I’ve never looked back on, and something I really rather blame Fr John-Julian for!



  • I think I’d contact the Order of Julian of Norwich in Wisconsin. They published it (I don’t think it was published elsewhere) but they don’t give a date. Good luck in finding a copy!

  • Yes, Fr John-Julian’s last decade was spent mainly writing, not only on Julian – Love’s Trinity written with Frederick S. Roden was published in 2009, and The Complete Julian followed three years later – but on folk such as Francis de Sales and Thomas a Kempis.

  • Thank you for leaving this tribute. I was in close touch with Fr John-julian some time ago but have seen out of contact for some 15 years. He had a huge influence on me. Do you have any more information about his last decade or so?

    Peter Kevern
  • Thank you for this message. I am looking for a copy of Fr. John Julian’s book “The Call to the Monastic Life: A Consideration of the Monastic Vocation in Contemporary America” after reading this, but am unable to find any publisher information. Can you tell me where I can purchase a copy?

    Andi Sibley

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