Many people in Wellington archdiocese and beyond are mourning the deaths of two much-loved and respected senior priests on the same day last month.
Church historian and former rector and lecturer at Holy Cross College in Mosgiel Msgr John Broadbent passed away on the first Sunday of Advent after a short spell in Wellington Hospital.
Fr Brian Fletcher died at St Joseph’s Home of Compassion at Silverstream.
Cardinal John Dew gave thanks to the Lord for the gift of Msgr Broadbent and Fr Fletcher.
“Both of these men have lived their priesthood with generosity in such diverse situations. Through it all shone their love for the Church, and for the many people they served in their ministry,” said Cardinal Dew.
“We give thanks to God for the gift of their presence with us over so many years, and ask him to grant them the eternal life they have longed for,” he said.
Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe fondly remembered Msgr Broadbent from the bishop’s days as a seminarian.
“Monsignor John Broadbent was the rector and lecturer in Church history during my first two years at Holy Cross College, Mosgiel. It as a Church historian that he most stands out to
me. His lectures were always the same, he would stand up close his eyes and speak, Church history just flowing from him,” he said.
Born in the United Kingdom, Msgr Broadbent’s family migrated to New Zealand when he was a child, and settled in Nelson. After a time of formation with the Benedictines of Prinknash Abbey, Gloucester, John continued his studies for the priesthood in Mosgiel.
Msgr Broadbent celebrated his 60th anniversary of priesthood last year. He was ordained by Archbishop Peter McKeefry on July 24, 1955, in St Mary of the Angels church, Wellington.
As a newly ordained priest, Fr Broadbent was appointed chaplain to the Catholic Youth Movement in Lower Hutt.
There he established the Capistrano Club to attract more youth to the Church.
Msgr Broadbent taught Church history for seven years at the Pacific Regional Seminary in Fiji.
From there he returned to Wellington for several years in tertiary chaplaincy at Victoria University. He became rector of Holy Cross College from 1987-91, then continued at Mosgiel as spiritual director and retreat master.
He also served at the parishes of Sts Peter and Paul, Lower Hutt, St Joseph’s, Waitara, St Patrick’s, Palmerston North Sacred Heart, Takaka, Sts Peter and Paul, Johnsonville, St Mary’s, Nelson and Our Lady of the Rosary, Waiwhetu.
Msgr Broadbent wrote numerous journal articles, entries for the New Zealand Dictionary of Biography, a brief history The Formation of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington 1840-1988 and, in 2002, the volume: Restoring the Laity’s Balance to an Unsteady Church.
A Requiem Mass was celebrated at Sts Peter and Paul church in Lower Hutt on December 6, followed by a private cremation.
Fr Brian Fletcher passed away peacefully at St Joseph’s Home of Compassion in Silverstream on November 27.
He was ordained a priest in July, 1960, and served in parishes in Porirua and St Mary’s in Palmerston North, where he was involved in youth movements as well as ordinary pastoral duties of a busy parish.
After 12 years of parish ministry, Fr Fletcher was appointed to the Military Chaplaincy, during which time he served two and a half years in Singapore. He reflected back on these years as a highlight in his priestly ministry.
On his return to New Zealand, Fr Fletcher served for more than 25 years as parish priest in four parishes – Miramar, Porirua, Heretaunga and Westport.
In recent years, he enjoyed retirement in his home in Waikanae, which became a centre of hospitality for his brother priests.
In May this year, as his health deteriorated, he moved to the Home of Compassion in Silverstream. During the Year for Priests, Fr Fletcher reflected back on his life: “I can state without doubt that my vocation has been sustained and enhanced by the mercy and goodness of God, and by the religious sisters and lay people everywhere . . . I thank God
that over the years I have grown in faith, a love for the Church and a love for the people.”
A Requiem Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Grace Heretaunga on December 2, followed by interment at the Taita Cemetery.