Cardinal confirms, no one to appoint as Parish Priest

Parish priest

The lack of vocations to the priesthood is the reason Ohariu Catholic parish no longer has a resident parish priest.

“I simply do not have anyone suitable to appoint as Parish Priest”, the Archbishop of Wellington told a 400 strong crowd, meeting at the Uniting Church, Dr Taylor Tce in Johnsonville.

The Archbishop apologised for the quality of communication about the decision, telling the at-times vocal crowd the communication was not as good as he had wanted.

Archbishop Dew dismissed criticism that he dumped the decision on the parish just two weeks before Christmas, when no one would notice.

He said he had learned only very late in the year of Fr Fitzgibbon’s intention to retire.

The Cardinal also said his prior commitments in Rome and standing in for Bishop Dunn at the recent summit on sexual abuse meant it was not possible to meet beforehand.

Cardinal Dew informed the meeting of a report he received earlier in 2018 indicating a possible far-reaching way forward for the St Francis of Assisi Parish, but he understood the parish had not accepted the plan.

The optimistic Archbishop said new circumstances meant resurrecting that plan, at least as a starting point.

Describing the new parish team as “adventurous, creative people with initiative to lead the parish in response to community needs”, he thought that, along with the support of the Parish Administrator Fr Peter Roe SM, the St Francis of Assisi Parish “had an even better deal”.

Cardinal Dew noted that lay-led parishes are not new.

“20 years ago, when Cardinal Williams was Archbishop, the Archdiocesan Synod approved lay-led parish leaders when the priest is unavailable,” he told the meeting.

Moving the discussion forward from a lack of priests to modern day mission, Cardinal Dew referred to a 100-year-old document written by Pope Benedict XV.

“If we are not on mission we are not being Catholic’, the pope wrote.

Cardinal Dew reinforced the comment by saying that of nature the Church is missionary.

“The mission is not about our needs but the needs of others.

“A church that focuses on itself becomes self-referential”, he said.

Cardinal Dew highlighted Vatican II, saying that just as Christians are all called to holiness, we are all called to mission.

Society of Mary involvement

Provincial of the Society of Mary, Fr David Kennerley SM, told the meeting that the Society is interested in this project because it is leading towards something new.

“Supporting a church coming to birth is something that suits us,” he said.

Fr Kennerley said the Marists came to New Zealand having been called by laity who had already established the New Zealand Church.

“We are not the cavalry. We are also not here for the long haul,” he warned.

He said the Society’s offer, through Fr Peter Roe, is for three years and to work collaboratively with the new parish team in order to call forth a church that is truly lay and truly missionary.

Questions answered

Responding to questions about getting help from overseas, Cardinal Dew said he’s been talking with Cardinal Tagle for eight years about supplying priests but Cardinal Tagle says the needs in the Philippines are very great.

Cardinal Dew also indicated that new immigration constraints are proving problematic.

Asked what the Church was doing to get vocations, Cardinal Dew said the Archdiocese had a vocations committee and was doing what it could.

He commented that he did not have any sons and observed if the people want priestly vocations priestly vocations needed to be fostered in families.

Cardinal Dew said the topic of married priests was on the agenda in Rome, and while it takes time, he remains hopeful the issue will come up again later in the year.

Meanwhile, the cardinal encouraged the parish to think of what it can do itself.

“The Church is no longer priest-centred, the priest doesn’t have to do everything.

“The question for each of us is what contribution can I make?”

Questioned on how he will judge the success of this new team leadership model, the Cardinal was quick to respond, “As I do any activity of the Archdiocese”.

“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trustfulness and self-control are the fruits of the Holy Spirit and if the parish if full of people like this we can say the parish is a success.”

Archdiocesan priest statistics: 8 priests in parishes, aged 70 – 90. 16 priests in parishes, aged 50-60. 10 priests in parishes, aged 30 – 49, however of these 10, 7 are on loan and can return at any point.

Archdiocesan lay pastoral worker statistics: 29 graduates. 12 in active ministry (Parish 5, Prison 1, Hospital 3, Ethnic 1, Archdiocesan employees 2). 8 not in formal ministry. 9 retired.

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News category: New Zealand.

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