by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — Auckland’s diocesan priests undoubtedly enjoy the company of their religious confreres, but they still enjoyed getting together on their own from July 9 to 11.
Fifty-six diocesan priests and two bishops spent the best part of three days in the Bay of Islands, talking about matters of concern, getting to know each other better, and taking in some of the sights.
Frs Peter Tipene (Owairaka) and Larry Rustia (Northcote) and Msgr Kevin Hackett (Parnell) talked to NZ Catholic about the gathering.
The get-together was Bishop Patrick Dunn’s idea, Fr Tipene said.
Discussions were facilitated by Sr Katrina Brill, RSJ. “We looked at the past,” Fr Tipene said . . . “and we looked at where we were from and where we were headed.”
Msgr Hackett said some discussion covered things like the availability of diocesan priests, religious priests filling gaps in parishes, and Auckland’s position with men now in the seminary. They also talked about how religious orders would not be able to cover the gaps indefinitely, as they also didn’t have the numbers.
“Bishop Pat had the bigger picture, and shared that with us,” said Fr Tipene.
It was also good to be together exclusively as diocesan priests, he said.
“Normally we are all thrown in together,” Msgr Hackett said.
“I think we are conscious of the fact that we have lots of priests from overseas, like the Philippines, India, Kiribati.
“A lot of those priests are invaluable, like those Indian priests are magnificent in the way they adapt to the New Zealand scene . . . they give great leadership, and we are very, very fortunate to have them.”
This is nothing new, he said, as foreign priests built the New Zealand Church.
But by the time he was ordained (in 1957), New Zealand was sending priests to the Philippines and, a few years later, to South America. Now New Zealand is again receiving priests from overseas.
“It seems to me this is a very Catholic thing because, when somebody is short, somebody comes to the rescue,” he said.
Each priest made a personal contribution of up to $300 towards the cost, Fr Tipene said, and Bishop Dunn covered remaining expenses. The bishop’s office told NZ Catholic that the location was chosen so priests would not be tempted to pop in and out of their parishes.
“We are very grateful,” Msgr Hackett said, “and we would be very happy to do it again!”