Sunday 11 March was a day of thanksgiving and celebration in Taranaki for Fr Jim Rickard who celebrated his 56th year in the priesthood. Mass was celebrated at the Bell Block Parish Centre and included a joyful guitar Mass, with parishioners from different ethnic backgrounds being involved in the liturgy.
A pot luck lunch followed, with activities outside for the children. After Mass Fr Jim paid tribute to a special person in his life, Maureen Whale, who has supported him and cared for him for more than 45 years as housekeeper, parish secretary, friend and caregiver.
Fr Jim was ordained in St John Lateran Church in Rome on 10 March 1951 and offered his first Mass in Mungano, South Italy, at the shrine of St Philomena the following day. Fr Jim came to New Zealand from Ireland in 1952 and is well known for his charismatic involvement during his ministry as parish priest in many parishes in the Palmerston North Diocese.
Fr Jim is now retired in Bell Block, New Plymouth, but he still offers Mass at the Bell Block Parish Centre each Sunday. Even though he is now frail in body, Fr Jim’s faith-filled and Spirit-filled commitment enriches and invigorates the small but vibrant parish community. Parishioners are grateful for Fr Jim’s presence and involvement among them and they look forward to celebrating his 90th birthday with him in January 2008.