Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving

WelCom August 2021 A Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated at St Patrick’s Church, Kilbirnie, 14 July, as a significant milestone in the lives of several clergy in the Archdiocese…

WelCom August 2021

A Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated at St Patrick’s Church, Kilbirnie, 14 July, as a significant milestone in the lives of several clergy in the Archdiocese of Wellington.

Celebrating presbyterial ordination anniversaries: 

65 years – Fr John Rea sm (2020); 

60 years – Msgr Charles Cooper, Frs Des Darby sm (2020), Frank Twiss sm, Frank Whitaker, Petelo Mauga (2021); 

50 years – Frs Eddie Condra, Maurice Carmody (2020), Pat McIndoe cp, Arthur Toothill sm, John Joliffe sm (2021); and

25 years – Frs Colin During, Joe Savesi sm (2021) and Cardinal John Dew, Consecration as Bishop (2020).

More than 70 priests were at the Mass supporting the Jubilarians, along with family members, friends and parishioners. A Māori welcome ushered the tiupiri – jubilarians, into the church and during Mass, members of the Pasifika community processed with the Offertory.

Fr Des Darby sm delivered the homily. On behalf of the Jubilarians he thanked everyone for their personal greetings and presence at the celebration and remembered the priests who have passed. 

Excerpts from Fr Darby’s homily: 

“I find, when someone says, ‘Congratulations, Des, on your 60 years’ I feel a little bewildered and a touch embarrassed – bewildered, because where have the years gone? Embarrassed, because in my heart I know the ‘congratulations’ belong to another person, the ‘Person’ of my God. 

The longer we live as priests, the more sensitive we become to the mystery of our vocation. It is with a sense of relief and hope I catch hold of the Lord’s words and apply them to myself: You did not choose me; I chose you. 

There’s the wonder of it – why me? but the choice also implies an underlying guarantee. Every Jubilarian, every priest present, has experienced that supporting hand of God in our lives – the merciful, forgiving, fortifying hand of God.

Jubilees are times to be grateful – to God, and to the people we serve, for their friendship and generosity, their tolerance, and especially their faith and loyalty. How often we’ve been privileged to share with them faith moments: sometimes sad moments when we’ve anointed a dying mother or father; or joyful moments, sharing with them happiness and excitement at the Baptism of a new baby. A good priest knows his people, spends time with them, relates with them, for love is only possible in a relationship.

The daily life of a priest is usually quite demanding and frequently exhausting. Yet, through it all, we have a fierce love of the priesthood. We draw strength from each other, are concerned for the health and well-being of one another, tolerate differences, and sincerely pray for one another. As St Paul explained about us: God chooses not those who are worthy but whom he pleases.

Adaptability and acceptance of change are, I think, essential qualities for a priest. We oldies sometimes reminisce about the past – ordained in Latin for a Latin Church, we celebrated Mass with our backs to the people, wore lace albs, pinned maniples on our left arms, and prayed in Latin. We gave Communion on the tongue to rows of people kneeling devoutly at the communion rail, saying hurriedly to each: Corpus Domini nostril Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternan. Amen. It was a relief when this was changed to the shortened form: Body of Christ, with the recipient saying, Amen.

We had no Concelebrated Masses, and no girl servers or women Readers or Ministers of Communion. Such customs might now be seen as discriminatory or unjust but that’s judging things with the clarity of hindsight. 

One certainty is change will continue to happen within the Church – but the priest as ‘alter Christus’, will not change: he is to be, and to bring, Christ to the people.

Any regrets about being a priest? None at all. The calling can be demanding, exhilarating, and frustrating all at the same time. But with you, my fellow priests, I’ve experienced a deep joy and satisfaction at being God’s instrument to bring the power and love of Christ to others.

May the Lord bless us all and keep us close to his heart. Amen.”