Archbishop John Dew discusses meeting Pope Benedict XVI, studying horticulture and whether he wished he had a family.
You grew up in Waipukurau. Was it a farm upbringing? My Father had a transport company business, but I spent a lot of time on farms. I had cousins who lived on farms and would visit them during holidays.
Was your household particularly religious? Dad wasn’t a Catholic, but Mum was. She was very involved in the parish. We went to the local convent school and to church, but religion wasn’t an overly dominant influence.
What did you think you might be when you grew up? Entering college, I had thoughts of teaching, and also the medical profession, but they were really only thoughts.
What college did you attend? St Joseph’s in Masterton. It did cross my mind then that I might like to be a brother. The suggestion was always put to you. However, I went back and did a horticulture course in Napier, then worked in a nursery.
So you didn’t go into the seminary straight away? No, I was nearly 22 when I went in.
Once you were in the seminary, were you conflicted about whether it was the right choice? No. I knew it was the right thing. At times I might have wished it wasn’t, but I knew it was.
How does it work in the priesthood – do you set out to advance through the ranks? Most priests set out to be available to serve the people. I knew I wanted to be a parish priest, but you don’t really plot a career path.
So how are talented priests identified and promoted? Your ability to get on with people and be efficient in what you do is important. The selection of bishops is guided by how they relate to people, how they celebrate mass, their administrative ability and so on. When he needs to, the bishop approaches the papal representative and says ‘we need a new bishop’. There is a questionnaire that looks at qualities and achievements. Three names are supplied, with a lot of background information, and the decision is made in Rome. Continue reading
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