GORE — Long-serving diocesan priest Fr Gerard Mary (“Gerry”) Fitzgibbon, who died on January 23, was described by Bishop Colin Campbell as a man committed to the celebration of Word and Sacrament with “reverent sincerity”.
Welcoming Emeritus Bishop Len Boyle, fellow priests, family and friends to the requiem Mass in Gore on January 26, Bishop Campbell said that in June Fr Gerry would have celebrated 50 years as a priest.
The older of Thomas and Margaret Fitzgibbon’s two children, Fr Fitzgibbon was born on December 8, 1936.
When his parents sold their Arrowtown farm and moved to Dunedin, he attended Christian Brothers High School and entered the seminary when he was 20.
Bishop Boyle, in his homily, said: “In 1956, a very interesting group followed me into the seminary.” There were four Fijians, including Fr Danny Johns — “present here today” — Denis Browne (now Bishop of Hamilton), Fr Henare Tait and “a shy young man, Gerry Fitzgibbon”.
“I thought we would probably work together at some time in the vineyard of the Dunedin diocese, so I thought I should get to know him,” Bishop Boyle said.
Other seminarians may have doubted their vocations, but not Gerry Fitzgibbon. “I don’t think he wavered for one minute on the way through,” Bishop Boyle said. “He knew what he was about [and] I think he knew it was all part of God’s plan.”
His devotion to God was evident in his parish work following his ordination in Dunedin on June 27, 1962.
He nourished his people by Word and sacrament, and he was effective in what he did, always there for others and living Christ’s call to feed God’s people, Bishop Boyle said. “I would never have been game to say it to his face, but I think Gerry would have made a great poker player.”
His face gave nothing away, and all that he might do was give “a quiet sigh . . . so you had to interpret him; is he pleased, or is this something we shouldn’t be discussing”.
Fr Fitzgibbon was assistant priest in Kaikorai, Oamaru, Winton and Balclutha and parish priest of Palmerston, Wyndham, Cromwell, Mataura and Te Anau. He was police chaplain at Invercargill from 1981 to 1983 and was priest in residence at Gore before moving to Calvary Rest Home last November.
“The last time I spoke to him was on Christmas Day when he was not well and had cause to complain, but he talked about how wonderful his room was, how wonderful the care was and how wonderful Calvary was,” Bishop Boyle said.
“We rejoice in the 50 years, Gerry, that you gave to God and the people he loves, and you loved.”
— Story courtesy of The Tablet, Dunedin.