Pat O’Connor RIP – parish priest of Tokelau 1987-2011

Monsignor Patrick Edward O’Connor, long-time parish priest and first Superior of the ‘Missio Sui Iuris’ of Tokelau, one of the most isolated places on earth, died at the St Joseph’s Home of Compassion at Silverstream in New Zealand, on Wednesday 3rd December.

Pat got to know the Tokelau people through the migrant Tokelau community that was part of Sacred Heart Petone where he was parish priest in the 1980s.

He spent three months in Tokelau in 1984.

In December 1987 he was appointed parish priest of Tokelau, and remained there until his retirement in 2011.

Pat was born in Masterton in 1932 and was educated at the local St Patrick’s primary school and St Joseph’s [now Chanel] College in Masterton.

Pat Studied for the priesthood at Holy Cross college in Mosgiel.

He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Wellington in 1957 and served in a number of parishes in the Wellington Archdiocese.

At his own request Pat’s funeral was held privately.

Tokelau is a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand consisting of small three coral atolls in the South Pacific: Atafu, Nukunonu, and Fakaofo.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s list of countries by GDP, Tokelau has the smallest economy of any country in the world, with an annual purchasing power of about US$1,000 (€674) per capita.

The atolls lie approximately mid-way between Hawaii and New Zealand and about 500 km north of Samoa.

Each atoll consists of a number of reef-bound islets encircling a lagoon.

The islets do not rise more than 15 ft above sea level and their total land area is  10.8 square kilometres.

Tokelau has a population of approximately 1,400.

On the island of Atafu almost all inhabitants are members of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.

On Nukunonu almost all are Catholic.

On Fakaofo both denominations are present with the Congregational Christian Church predominant. Its capital rotates yearly between the three atolls.

The government-run MV Tokelau provides passenger and cargo services to and from Apia every two weeks.

The trip takes about 24-36 hours each way, and the ship makes the round trip in five days.

Passengers must bring their own mattresses to sleep on. Food is provided, and there is one bathroom for the passengers.

Since there is no harbour in Tokelau, launches are used to embark and disembark.

There are no air services to Tokelau.


News category: Asia Pacific, Top Story.