Reflecting on years of service

Jubilarians (back, from left): Frs John McLaughlan, John Dykes, Craig Butler, Peter Brockhill, Frank Twiss, Michael Wooller (Also shown is Msgr Brian Walsh); (front, from left): Bishop Peter Cullinane, Cardinal John Dew, Bishop Owen Dolan.

Parishioners and clergy from across Palmerston North diocese gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on October 8 for Mass, to rejoice with eight priests celebrating their jubilees of ordination, and three bishops on their episcopal ordination anniversaries.

Fr John McLaughlan (65 years), Fr Frank Twiss, SM, and Fr Walter Cooke (60 years), Fr John Dykes (55 years), Fr Michael Wooller, SM, (50 years), Fr Damian Caccioppoli, SM, (40 years), Fr Peter Brockhill (30 years) and Fr Craig Butler (25 years) were the priest jubilarians. Bishop Peter Cullinane (40 years), Bishop Owen Dolan (25 years) and Cardinal John Dew (25 years) were the bishops concerned. Frs Cooke and Caccioppoli were unable to attend.

The presiding celebrant, Cardinal John Dew, who is apostolic administrator of the diocese, in his welcome expressed a spirit of giving thanks for the years of service. “Thank you for being faithful stewards of the mystery,” he said.

During his homily, Bishop Cullinane spoke about the celebration of jubilees of ordination being a time to reflect on what priests have been called to and have given their lives for – which, according to the Second Vatican Council, is first and foremost a ‘ministry of the word.’

“Today, the challenge facing all of us is how to proclaim that word effectively,” he said.  “How are we to speak convincingly about something that can seem so other-worldly?  How to speak about the nearness of what can seem remote? How to speak with a sense of urgency about what seems out of sight and postponable?”

Like God telling the prophet Ezekiel to be ‘a sign’, today the Church asks its priests to “put our whole life and whole self where our mouths are.”

“Jubilees are not just about numbers of years, but about years of service, self-sacrifice and faithfulness,” he said.

“During my time as bishop of the diocese, after coming away from visiting priests especially in country parishes, I often felt truly humbled and admiring of these men for being at their posts, day in-day out, week in-week out, year in-year out.  That kind of faithfulness is truly a prophetic sign in our day: it is counter-cultural in a society that easily excuses unfaithfulness, and even doubts whether faithfulness is possible.”

“All those who witness to faithfulness, whether in marriage, in homes, work-places, neighbourhoods, or religious life, are called to be Ezekiels. It is our lives that speak the Word.”

Jubilees are also celebrations of the people whom priests serve, Bishop Cullinane continued.

“Every priest knows, or pretty quickly learns, that what often incentivizes him, empowers him, enables his perseverance, urges him on, keeps him going, is the faith and faithfulness, love, sacrifices, hopes, struggles, sorrows and courage of the people.  And today, we all thank you for that.”

As the priests of the diocese processed out after the final blessing, a round of applause came from the congregation. Lunch followed in the gathering area.

  • with a report from Emma Dodsworth.

 

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Sue Seconi

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