WelCom September 2020
Terry Healion and his sister Cecilia were delighted with Bishop Peter Cullinane’s suggestion of a memorial Mass of Thanksgiving for the life and ministry of their brother – Fr John Healion, who passed away in New Plymouth in 1980.
Wednesday 29 July marked the 40th anniversary of Fr John’s sudden death. Friends and family from as far away as Auckland and Wellington gathered at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Fitzroy, where Bishop Denis Browne and Frs Vui Hoang and Freddie Barte concelebrated with Bishop Peter.
In his welcome Terry recalled his brother John as: ‘strong in physique, resolute in faith, youth counsellor, comforter of the dying, austere in lifestyle, impatient with insincerity, humble enough to ask for help when needed, angry when confronted with prejudice, advocate of the poor and oppressed – accepting chairmanship of Corso at a difficult time, understanding with the sick and distressed, a priest of God and truly seen as a man of God, loved by so many.
Terry also recalled the words of Manuka Henare, director of the office of Evangelisation Justice and Development, describing John as ‘one of those rare priests who understood fully the role of the laity in the mission of the Church and let them take off in the community’.
Terry also related a story told by Monsignor Charles Cooper about John’s funeral in 1980. At the time an American liturgist, Fr Eugene Walsh was conducting a training week for priests at the pastoral centre in Palmerston North. He went with the priests to Tokorangi Marae in Halcombe, near Feilding, to attend the Māori Requiem for Pā John. Four years later, when Eugene died, he had left instructions in his will that he wanted the same type of funeral as he had experienced at Tokorangi Marae for Fr John.
In his homily, Bishop Peter encouraged us to ‘live life to the full – not self-indulgently but in ways that are for others’. These words echoed those of Melville Carll, a parishioner of Taita where John had been assistant priest 1965–1972. At the time of John’s death Melville had written, ‘For us John, dear friend, you have made us realise once again that the length of life is less important than the intensity and sincerity with which it is lived.’
Beautifully crafted Prayers of the Faithful were led by Michael Healion, John’s nephew and Michael’s children Harriet and Alfie.
The whole liturgy was enhanced by beautiful singing led by Harriet and Alfie and finally the sharing of memories and of the delicious food served by Frs Vui and Freddie and the people of the parish. How good it is to remember with thanksgiving.