by MICHAEL OTTO
NAPIER — The thousands of people who encountered Msgr Tim Hannigan at presbytery doors during his 57 years of priestly ministry met a shepherd who knew all knew about “smells of daily living, as our people experience them”.
That’s what Emeritus Bishop of Palmerston North, Peter Cullinane, said in a homily to a packed-to-overflowing St Patrick’s Church in Napier on May 3 during a requiem Mass.
Msgr Hannigan had collapsed and died during Mass at the church five days earlier on April 28.
Born in Ireland in 1931, Msgr Hannigan was ordained at St Patrick’s College, Thurles, and came to New Zealand in 1956, after meeting then-Bishop Peter McKeefry.
He ministered in Newtown, Levin, Ohura and then Napier, where he lived for 34 years from 1979.
His work included hospital chaplaincy, ministry to borstals and being director of the pastoral centre in Palmerston North.
Bishop Cullinane spoke about how Msgr Hannigan fitted Pope Francis’s description of priests.
“Not shrouded in lace and linen, but shepherds who know all the smells of daily living, as our people experience them,” he said.
“Tim had a way of exercising priestly ministry that was actually officially endorsed by the Second Vatican Council, in its multiple references to dialogue, fraternity, servanthood and co-responsibility. What the council taught came naturally to Tim. He never put himself above his people by the way he spoke, dressed, or lived. And far from this diminishing his priesthood, or diminishing his people’s respect for it, it actually enhanced it,” the bishop said.
“As we all know, Tim’s years are littered with stories — invariably they end with laughter,” he continued.
“They are all told and re-told with a twinkle in the eye — quite a few of them really happened. And the one’s that didn’t were really expressions of what Tim would like to have said, and liked to have done, only his soft and gentle heart usually got the better of him.”
Bishop Cullinane paid particular tribute to Msgr Hannigan’s ministry to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Knights of the Southern Cross and to seafarers.
Denis Hannigan from Ireland spoke about how proud his brother was of New Zealand.
“His two favourite colours are on top of his coffin there, green and black — as always the black is on top of the green.”
Mr Hannigan also told of how his brother would write a letter to his parents in Ireland every week without fail, while they were still alive.
“We are absolutely overwhelmed by the stories told by so many of the impact Tim had on the lives of families. He was obviously loved very much, and that is so comforting to us at this time.”
Speaking on behalf of the parish, David Marshall said Msgr Hannigan started in Napier after 130 years of ministry by Marist priests.
In 1981, the old St Patrick’s Church burned down — which was a bitter blow to the community.
“One of the abiding images of that whole, horrible afternoon, was the sight of Fr Tim standing helplessly, watching his parish church razed to the ground, with tears streaming down his face,” Mr Marshall said.
He also mentioned Msgr Hannigan’s close friendship with long-time Napier Labour MP, the late Geoff Braybrooke, who died in March this year.
Msgr Hannigan, who was a former vicar-general of Palmerston North diocese, was made a member of the Order of New Zealand for services to the community in 2000.
Also at the requiem Mass were Bishop Charles Drennan, Archbishop John Dew and Cardinal Thomas Williams.