Fr Pierre Denzil Meuli was a priest of great learning and deep piety, who touched many souls in his ministry in a “run down shed” in Titirangi for more than 20 years.
This was among the tributes paid to Fr Meuli by Fr Antony Sumich, FSSP, preaching at a requiem Mass at the Church of the Holy Family in Te Atatu on March 27. Fr Meuli died at St Joseph’s Home in Ponsonby on March 22.
The requiem Mass was celebrated in Latin, in the extraordinary form, with the celebrant being Fr Michael-Mary, FSSR. Fr Sumich was the deacon and Fr Jeremy Palman was the sub-deacon. Bishop Patrick Dunn and Bishop Denis Browne were present.
Fr Sumich’s homily touched on many aspects of Fr Meuli’s life, which, he said, could not be put “into a box”.
Born in 1926, Fr Meuli’s secondary education in Auckland was at Sacred Heart College and St Peter’s College (at which he was a foundation student in 1939) and later at St Kevin’s College, Oamaru. He served in the Royal New Zealand Air Force from 1943 to 1945, obtaining his pilot’s licence, but without seeing active service.
Entering Holy Cross College in Mosgiel in 1951, he
would go on to study in Rome, where he was ordained
in 1956. He obtained a Licentiate in Sacred Theology in
1956, a Licentiate in Philosophy in 1959 and a Doctorate
in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University in 1959. After being ordained, he did chaplaincy work in Germany, including being a chaplain to the Occupation Army of the Rhine.
In 1959, he returned to New Zealand and worked in parishes including Three Kings, Panmure, Waiheke, Howick,
Kihikihi, Avondale, Glen Eden, Northcote and Grey Lynn. From 1969 to 1971, he was editor of Zealandia.
While at Glen Eden, he studied law at the University
of Auckland, gaining a bachelor’s degree in 1977 and he was subsequently admitted as a barrister and solicitor
of the High Court of New Zealand.
Mention was also made of his love of classic cars — in Glen Eden he had two Monaros and a Jaguar.
Further overseas studies followed. He graduated from the Lateran University of Canon and Civil Law in 1980 as Doctor in Utroque Jure, Summa Cum Laude. His thesis was titled “The status and the defences of the unborn child in common law”. Further studies followed, and he was licensed to appear before the Sacred Roman Rota and the Signatura Apostolica. In the early 1980s, Fr Meuli worked with the regional tribunal in Bologna, Italy.
Returning to New Zealand, he was parish priest of Three Kings in Auckland, but, Fr Sumich said, he had his mind set on celebrating the traditional Latin Mass of his ordination.
“He was given the opportunity to do so at Mt St Mary’s in Titirangi and the rest is history.”
The fact that Fr Meuli touched many souls was shown by the numbers at his funeral, Fr Sumich said.
Throughout his ministry at Mt St Mary’s, Fr Meuli “heard endless confessions, thousands upon thousands . . . he wanted everyone to receive God’s grace”.
“For long years in that rather run down shed up
there, with extreme cold [in winter] and great humidity
in the summer, he stayed the course.”
Fr Sumich said Fr Meuli was always a man of great learning, and this showed through occasionally in the bemused looks on the faces of some in his congregations during his preaching. But he wanted to “make his own reparation for what happened after Humanae Vitae”.
“You could go to Mt St Mary’s at 6am or 6pm, 10am or 3pm, or two in the morning and there he was, praying.”
Fr Sumich said Fr Meuli had played a key part in his own vocation and in the vocations of many others.
“He wanted to die in the confessional or at the altar, but God had other plans. Dementia set in and he was unable to celebrate Mass.
“His whole focus was on Christ crucified.”
Fr Sumich said Fr Meuli died “a good and holy death. That is what really matters. That is what he was aiming for all along”.
Just before the casket was taken from the Te Atatu church, it was draped in a Māori cloak. His body was interred at the Panmure Catholic Cemetery.