Father Kevin John Foote, a priest for 47 years in Christchurch diocese, died on April 28, 2023. He was 76 years old.
At a May 5 requiem Mass celebrated at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, family and friends remembered Fr Foote as a dedicated priest who lived a simple life, but with “a restless soul”, spending half of his life in New Zealand and half abroad.
He was ordained to the presbyterate by Bishop Brian Ashby on May 1, 1976, and ministered in the parishes of Sockburn, Ashburton, Beckenham, South Westland twice, Timaru, Hurunui, Mairehau, and the Catholic Maori mission at Te Rangimarie Centre, Linwood.
In between, he got permission to join the St James Missionary Society, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity and the Beatitudes Community, and he served in Bolivia, Mexico, India, France, The Congo, Peru and the Philippines.
His youngest brother, Terence Foote, said that Fr Foote had a gift for languages, and could preach in English, Te Reo Maori, Spanish and French.
“(Saint) Mother Teresa encouraged him to pray and also give up beer. He did this, and was going to have one when he turned 80,” Mr Foote said in his eulogy.
Fr Geoffrey Gray, a close friend of Fr Foote, and the homilist at the requiem Mass, said that he met Kevin Foote in 1969 at a pub in Christchurch, where Fr Foote announced that he was going to be a priest.
“As it happened, Bishop Ashby had also accepted me for the diocesan priesthood, and I was going to Holy Cross, Mosgiel, to complete my theology studies. That evening, Kevin took me home to meet his family, and he and I and his dear family have been good friends ever since,” he recalled.
He said that Fr Foote obtained permission to join the Missionaries of St James the Apostle in 1982. It was an association of diocesan priest volunteers working in South America.
“As my best friend, his going there inspired me to also join that missionary society, and go to Latin America, and my life was changed forever. For that I will always be grateful to Kevin, and to the Lord who called me, and he, to serve the poor of that suffering continent,” Fr Gray said.
Both Mr Foote and Fr Gray described Fr Foote as having had “little contact with the institutional Church” in his (Fr Foote’s) teenage years, but he had had a “profound conversion” at age 23, which led him (Fr Foote) to priesthood.
“Kevin’s life as a disciple . . . was notable in many ways, but especially in his faithfulness to prayer, and the simplicity of his lifestyle. Kevin embraced poverty as no other person I know has embraced it,” Fr Gray said.
“His faithfulness to prayer gradually filled his soul with a tangible spirit of joy, kindness and generosity. He had a profound devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and the holy rosary was a constant prayer for him.”
Fr Foote was especially close to Maori at Te Rangimarie, who called him Pa Waewae.