New Bishop’s heart beats for his diocese

1 Adams bishops

Newly ordained Bishop of Palmerston North Bishop John Adams remembered receiving the Apostolic Nuncio’s call with “ a certain mixture of both honour and trepidation”.

“It came around the same time I got the news that I would need to have open heart surgery, which I had ten weeks ago, to fix a leaky heart valve,” he said.

“During the operation, my heart was stopped for 90 minutes. ‘What is the Lord doing?’ I remember asking myself, until I discovered the word Manawatu means to have a still heart.”

Bishop Adams was ordained on September 30 at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, with Auckland Bishop Stephen Lowe the principal consecrator .

Christchurch Bishop Michael Gielen, Dunedin Bishop Michael Dooley, Palmerston North Bishop Emeritus Peter Cullinane, Dunedin Bishop Emeritus Colin Campbell and Coadjutor Bishop Emeritus of Palmerston North Owen Dolan co-consecrated.

Also present was the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, who read the Apostolic Letter of Appointment from Pope Francis.

The cathedral was packed with people from the Palmerston North diocese, as well as visitors from Christchurch diocese. The latter had travelled north to farewell their beloved priest. More than 1000 viewers from all over the country also tuned in to the livestreaming of the event.

  Bishop-elect John Adams stands before Bishop Stephen Lowe, flanked by Msgr Brian Walsh and Fr Craig Butler.

Bishop Adams expressed his gratitude to his mother, Joan, and to his brothers and sister. He had to pause for a while to gather himself as tears threatened.

“What a joy it is to come from a loving family. It is a tremendous gift. I’m thankful for this,” he said.

He thanked the people who had given him a warm welcome in the few weeks that he had been in the diocese, especially Bishops Cullinane and Dolan. Bishop Dolan also celebrated his 95th birthday on that day.

He also mentioned specifically his friends from St Peter Chanel parish in Waimakariri north of Christchurch.

Bishop Adams told his new flock that Jesus was “clear in the Gospel about remaining in his (Jesus’) love”.

“Our discipleship will have great power and efficacy if it is lived with him. It is both a profound offer, and a challenge given to each one of us here today,” he said.

He said, though, that Jesus’ message did not always find favour in his (Jesus’) time, and that people tried to throw Jesus off a cliff.

“I was greatly confident when I learned in Palmerston North, there weren’t too many cliffs around this place,” he joked.

“There are so many people in our world trying to throw Jesus off a cliff. And I join the few today, our visitors and people of Palmerston North in our attempts to keep Jesus Christ alive and well in this place,” he said.

Bishop Adams said that he is confident in his ability to lead the people of the diocese in this task.

“My confidence should not be considered arrogant, for I’m confident not because of my abilities – surely they are modest – but I am confident because, with the Holy Spirit, as Luke’s Gospel reminds us, anything is possible for God,” he said.

                                                Bishop Lowe places the mitre on Bishop Adams’ head

Bishop Adams also thanked his brother bishops.

“Brothers, I want to publicly honour you. I’ve already seen the multiple demands that you must bear . . . behind the scenes. I look forward to working with you in the future and sharing something of that happy burden,” he said.

He thanked Bishop Lowe for officiating at the ordination. However, he teased Bishop Lowe about pouring so much oil on his (Bishop Adams’) head during the anointing.

“I think, Steve, you might have used just a tiny drop of oil in that flask. Not that I’m being critical,” he said as everyone laughed.


Brotherly advice


In his homily, Bishop Lowe acknowledged Bishop Adams as a man of prayer, and advised him to keep praying and “be constantly aware of the Lord’s presence”.

“Being a man of prayer is a sign that we know that we cannot do this by ourselves,” Bishop Lowe said.

He said that bishops are often expected to be all things to all people, but they are “rapidly called to be men of humility”.

Bishop Lowe said that Jesus invites us into his friendship, adding that a Dominican theologian said that friendship is the language of God’s love.

“This is our task as bishops, in a world that is so fractured. To be a bishop is to love your brother priests, to love your people, the people that you serve as their shepherd. To be able to say, then I call you friends.”

Bishop Lowe said that, during the Mass, Bishop Adams will pray for Pope Francis and “for me, your unworthy servant”.

“Confessing our unworthiness in daily Mass reminds us that it is Christ who chose us, Christ who commissions us, and Christ who must equip us to live out this commission,” Bishop Lowe said.

Bishop Lowe earlier remarked that “it has been a long journey”, as the bishop’s seat was vacant for four years after Bishop Charles Drennan resigned in 2019.

“I thank you,” Bishop Lowe told Archbishop Novatus, “on behalf of all of us gathered here today and the entire diocese of Palmerston North for this appointment, the Holy Father’s appointment of a new shepherd for Palmerston North.”

“Can I remind you that Hamilton is also looking for a new bishop?” he asked, half-jokingly.





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Rowena Orejana

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