WelCom April 2018: A large crowd of around 1500 packed Christchurch Boys’ High School auditorium for the ordination of Bishop Paul Martin sm on Saturday 3 March. Cardinal John Dew ordained Martin the tenth Bishop of Christchurch to succeed Bishop Barry Jones, who died in February 2016.
Attending were several members of Bishop Paul’s family from the Hawke’s Bay, friends and parishioners, clergy ‒ many from the Society of Mary ‒ members of other Christian traditions and faiths, civic dignitaries and members of parliament.
In a ceremony involving Latin, Māori and English, Pope Francis’ diplomatic representative to New Zealand, Archbishop Martin Krebs, read the pope’s message mandating Martin’s appointment.
A karanga was offered by representatives of Te Runaka Ki Otautahi O Kai Tahu and a mihi whakatau from Richard Tankersley. These formalities along with prayer and song formed a fitting prologue to the Mass.
To the people of Christchurch, Cardinal John Dew said, ‘today you are gifted with someone who is ready to serve you. I am sure the people of Christchurch will delight in Bishop Paul as someone who is here with you and for you’. Describing Martin as a ‘humble servant’, he told the congregation the only authority Martin had was that of service.
Newly ordained Bishop Martin spoke with heartfelt honesty. ‘We have gathered here today as the community of the Church, of my family and friends, of this city and our country, in this environment of faith to give thanks to God for all he has given us, to pray for me in particular – and I will really need it. I am really very grateful for your presence here today.’
Thanking his family, particularly his mother Carmel and late father Ron, he said, ‘I am very blessed being born into a family that is stable, loving, and showed me what living a Christian life looks like. Growing up in Hastings, there were 14 Marists living in the presbytery and so I had lots of great examples of how Marist life could be lived. I could see myself living that way also. So today, I am who I am because of my natural family and religious family.’
Reflecting on his 24 years of priestly ministry in various dioceses in New Zealand he told the people he now belonged to them. ‘I’m no longer a wandering religious – Christchurch is my home,’ he said.
Bishop Patrick Dunn, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, said ‘the ordination of a new bishop is a truly historic moment for the Diocese of Christchurch. I, and the other New Zealand bishops, are delighted to welcome Bishop Paul as he joins us. Bishops are called to be shepherds of the flock of Christ, and I know Bishop Paul will bring to this work his many personal gifts plus the pastoral experience he has gained during his priestly life thus far.’
Diocesan Administrator, Fr Rick Loughnan said, ‘on behalf of the Diocese, I extend our prayers and good wishes to Bishop Paul on this wonderful occasion of his ordination as he takes his place as our Shepherd.’
Many gathered on Sunday morning in the Pro-Cathedral for Bishop Martin’s Installation Mass. In his first homily as Bishop of Christchurch, Bishop Paul used the readings of the day to express to the congregation the importance of being ‘salt of the earth and light to the world’. He said, ‘we may use words to express our faith, but what is important in life is what we do. If we are to be Christian, actions must be consistent with our words.’
Bishop Paul Martin was born in Hastings in 1967, one of five children. At his ordination, Bishop Martin said, ‘Growing up in Hastings in the 1970s and 1980s was a really enjoyable experience. I want to honour the Josephite Sisters for the education I received from them – many who are here today – and those who taught me at St Joseph’s in Hastings and in particular the Marists. The formation I received, the confreres I lived and worked with, the ministries I have been involved in have all shaped me into the person I am today.
Martin entered formation for the Society of Mary in 1985, and studied in theology and arts at Victoria University in Wellington. He was ordained a priest in 1993 and in 1994 attended Teachers’ Training College in Auckland. He taught at Pompallier College, Whangarei, and at St Bede’s, Christchurch. He was Deputy Rector, Chaplaincy, at Hāto Pāora College, and a teacher at St Patrick’s College, Wellington, before becoming Rector from 2008–2013. From 2014–2016 he was Assistant Provincial and Provincial Bursar for the Society of Mary in New Zealand, before taking up the position of Bursar General in Rome.