Emeritis Bishop John Mackey dies in Auckland

Emeritus Catholic Bishop of Auckland John Mackey, 86, died 20 January, in Auckland after a short illness.

Calling him a “friend”, the current Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn, asked the people of Auckland to thank God for Bishop Mackey’s long life, his leadership as bishop, contribution to education, and as a spiritual guide and companion for so many.

For the last four days Bishop Mackey had been in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Ponsonby. Bishop Dunn said he was privileged, yesterday, to celebrate Mass at his bedside along with some of his friends.

Bishop Mackey will be buried from the cathedral on Monday 27 and interred in the cathedral crypt.

Before then, from Wednesday, Bishop Mackey is at the Little Sisters of the Poor chapel in Ponsonby, and from Friday night for the whole weekend he is lying in state at the cathedral.

Born in Bray, Co. Wicklow in Ireland, he came to New Zealand at the age of seven, with his widowed mother to live with her brother, Fr O’Byrne.

Studying for the priesthood at New Zealand’s National Seminary, Holy Cross College, Mosgiel he was ordained a priest on 23 November 1941 and bishop in Rome on 30 June 1974.

John Mackey was Bishop of Auckland from 1974 until 1983 when he retired due to a recurring health problem.

Bishop Mackey had a distinguished academic career. He

  • gained a doctorate in education
  • a Master’s degree in history
  • was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and
  • a Graduate Scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, studying there for two years before returning to take up the appointment of Director of Education for the Auckland diocese.
  • was Professor of Church History at Holy Cross College and lecturer in Church History at the University of Otago. 

In the earlier years of his retirement, Bishop Mackey was a guest lecturer in New Zealand and abroad and conducted occasional courses in Church History at Holy Cross College and supervised the preparation of the new faith education programmes for Catholic secondary schools on behalf of the New Zealand bishops.

Bishop Mackey is the author of three books – Reflections on Church History, The Making of a State system and Looking at Ourselves (The Church moving towards the Third Millennium).

Until a few months ago, Bishop Mackey continued to write on a variety of subjects, including reviews and reflections for Catholic publications.

Bishop Mackey was one of the key architects of the successful completion of the integration of Catholic schools into the state system in 1975.

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