CSS director lauded for leadership and faith

4 Metherell group

Doesn’t the world need more men like John Metherell?

That was a question Auckland diocese general manager James van Schie put to those who had gathered for a farewell function for the director of the diocese’s Catholic Social Services, John Metherell, who has retired from the role.

The respect in which Mr Metherell is held was shown by the number present at the function at the St Columba Centre in Ponsonby on December 17, and also by the range of organisations represented. Members of his family, including his wife Janet, were also present.

Sergeant Martin Auva’a, of the police multi-agency Family Harm Team,“Te Manawa Titi”, was fulsome in his praise of Mr Metherell, and of Catholic Social Services.

“In the police, . . . we attend 60,000 or 70,000 family harm instances a year. And probably CSS . . . deals with about 200 per annum. Of those 200, I can say, of the victims we bring to CSS, you reach about 96 per cent. That is the standard that no one else can match. And it comes from a persistence, which is to be encouraged . . . , with people who are so broken, so damaged, and yet they are still children of God.

“I am so proud that you have Catholic Social Services as a name.”

Sergeant Auva’a added that the police deal with drug addicts, drunks, recidivists, victims of crime, perpetrators of crime, and more.

“Through your staff, I see God’s grace, because they keep picking them up, they keep going and getting involved with them, they literally pick up, go and move people, fix their houses, clean their houses, clean them sometimes.”

Sergeant Auva’a said he would miss Mr Metherell — “because it was so easy to just talk to you”.

Mr Metherell thanked and praised the CSS staff for their professionalism and commitment. He said he was staggered by their ability to remember people’s names, even months after working with them. But this does not come from a good memory, it comes from being interested and compassionate.

“To me that is the real compassion of the staff we have got — that they are involved in that test of walking with these people — and, by God, some of them have got a tough row to hoe.”

Mr Metherell also praised his staff’s advocacy skills, and their helping people receive welfare and health entitlements. He also praised the work of the many agencies which were represented at the function.

Referrring to himself, he said “it is time to pull the pin”.

“This is the right time to move on. With those very kind words that have been expressed, we stand on others’ shoulders. We build on what we receive and what we can give to others.”

Earlier, Mr van Schie said that “one of the goals of our diocese is to build the spirituality of young people”.

“. . . I think the way we can do that is by having people like John around. Because I think John gives an example to younger people, even people like me, what our lives could be like. What a life well-lived, a life of service, can do for others.

“What putting others first can mean for the community, and what calm and what patient and resolute leadership can do for one another.”

Auckland diocese vicar for social impact and communication Loraine Elliott told of Mr Metherell’s long and distinguished career with the Probation Service, and with the Department of Corrections, from which he “retired” in 2012.

He had had an association with CSS for some two decades, and he chaired a consultative body for the agency about 10 years ago. He went on to chair a newly-created CSS board from 2012 to 2014, and was then asked to take over as director
in 2014.

“John has built a formidable legacy in Catholic Social Services, it was by no means an easy ride,” Ms Elliott said.

This year, Ms Elliott added, he led CSS through two lockdowns, and worked closely with Ann Marie Parker of the Catholic Caring Foundation in Auckland to ensure that those in need received whatever help and aid could be offered . . . , “and at times that was hard, really, really hard, but, as most of you know, John has a very kind [of] steely determination to help where he can”.

Ms Elliott noted that Mr Metherell is the “only male at Catholic Social Services”, and commended his “steady-as-she-goes attitude”.

“I would like to personally thank John for his quiet determination, his kindness, his laughter, and his ability to always be upbeat and positive no matter the situation, and his unwavering Catholic faith that has always shone through.”

She added that Mr Metherell will carry on chairing the James Liston Housing Trust board as Bishop Patrick Dunn’s representative. He is also on the Catholic Housing Network. Moreover, he has just been made chair of the parish council in his parish of Meadowbank.

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Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Rona Cooper says

    Well done John.have been meeting several people from our family tree.remember you and I were related to Auntie Nancy. Please e mail me for a catch up.

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