Parishioners and clergy from across the Diocese of Palmerston North gathered in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on October 8, for Mass to rejoice with priests celebrating Ordination and Bishops their episcopal anniversaries.
The eight celebrating priests were Fr John McLaughlin, 65 years; Fr Frank Twiss sm, 60 years; Fr John Dykes, 55 years; Fr Michael Wooller sm, 50 years; Fr Peter Brockhill, 30 years; and Fr Craig Butler, 25 years. Fr Walter Cooke, 60 years, and Fr Damian Caccioppoli sm, 40 years, were unable to attend.
Celebrating their episcopal ordinations were Bishop Peter Cullinane, 40 years, and Bishop Owen Dolan, 25 years. Cardinal John Dew, the presiding celebrant of the Mass, was celebrating his 25th jubilee as bishop,
In his welcome Cardinal John acknowledged the jubilarians for their years of spiritual service. ‘Thank you for being faithful stewards of the Mystery,’ he said.
During his homily Bishop Peter reflected on faithfulness to the Word, and what the jubilarians have been called to and have given their lives for – which, according to the Second Vatican Council, is first and foremost a ‘ministry of the word’.
Today, the challenge facing all of us is how to proclaim that word effectively, Bishop Peter said. ‘How are we to speak convincingly about something that can seem so other-worldly? How to speak about the nearness of what can seem remote? How to speak with a sense of urgency about what seems out of sight and postponable? he asked.
Like God telling the prophet Ezekiel to be ‘a sign’, today the Church asks its priests to ‘put our whole life and whole self where our mouths are’, Bishop Peter said. Jubilees are not just about numbers of years, but about years of service, self-sacrifice and faithfulness.’
Bishop Peter shared how that during his time as bishop of the diocese, after coming away from visiting priests, especially in country parishes, he often felt humbled and admiring of these men for being at their posts, day in and day out, week in week out, year in and year out. ‘That kind of faithfulness is truly a prophetic sign in our day: It is counter-cultural in a society that easily excuses unfaithfulness, and even doubts whether faithfulness is possible.
‘All those who witness to faithfulness, whether in marriage, in homes, work-places, neighbourhoods, or Religious life, are called to be Ezekiels. It is our lives that speak the word.’
Rejoicing at jubilee ordinations is about celebrating the parishioners they serve as well, Bishop Peter continued. ‘Every priest knows, or pretty quicky learns, that what often incentivises him, empowers him, enables his perseverance, urges him on, keeps him going, is the faith and faithfulness, love, sacrifices, hopes, struggles, sorrows and courage of the people. And today, we all thank you for that.’
After the final blessing, the congregation gave a round of applause as the priests processed out of the cathedral.