On 20 December 1979 Fr Tom Williams was ordained the sixth archbishop of Wellington. He said that day: ‘I stand before you all – a newly ordained bishop. The question your minds must surely be: “what manner of bishop will he be?” I have had to ask myself the same question. But neither you nor I can see into the future. The answer, therefore, lies with God. I know only what I will strive with all my mind and heart and will to be – that is, a bishop according to the mind of Christ and His Church expressed in the Gospel, in the documents of the second Vatican Council, and in the lives of those saintly men of our own day and in past times who have proven themselves true shepherds after the example and by the grace of Jesus the Good Shepherd.’
It is impossible to list in this column the number and variety of Cardinal Tom’s achievements in those 25 years. He would be the first to say that what has been done in the archdiocese, in the Church of New Zealand and internationally has been done through the grace of God and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We all know this is true. We also know that Tom Williams has given his heart, mind and will to being the bishop he knew Christ called him to be.
I can’t list them all, but let me remind you of some of Cardinal Tom’s achievements. There have been two archdiocesan synods, and a special assembly of the synod for the Samoan people of the archdiocese. These have helped set the agenda for pastoral planning.
The Basilica was renamed the Cathedral and the archdiocese at last had its centre in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The building was also strengthened and added to in order to meet the requirements of building codes and to serve as the focal point for prayer and liturgy in the diocese.
The Catholic Centre was built and offices provided to give a more effective administration, education and pastoral centre. The cardinal has given himself wholeheartedly to the service of Catholic education in the archdiocese and beyond and is recognised in the Pacific for his enormous contribution to Catholic education.
The Year of the Great Jubilee, 2000, saw many celebrations throughout the diocese due to Cardinal Tom’s foresight and planning , and it was also the year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Bishop Viard and his companions.
Many words have been spoken and written, many homilies given, many meetings attended and plans made and seen through to fruition and all have been so that he could serve with the mind and heart of Christ. Now the time has come to say THANK YOU.
A simple thank you is inadequate.
Cardinal Tom, the people of the Archdiocese of Wellington, clergy, religious and laity, have spoken so much to me in recent months of your generous and gifted leadership, your capacity to work hard and to give of yourself solely for the good of the people you were called to serve. We say THANK YOU.
When the newly ordained bishop spoke on 20 December 1979 he also said: ‘Your prayers have given me tremendous encouragement and strength. Please continue to pray for me.’ As we say THANK YOU after over 25 years to someone who has striven with all his mind and heart and will to be a bishop according to the mind of Christ and His Church expressed in the Gospel, in the documents of the second Vatican Council, we also continue to pray for him and ask God to bless and reward him with peace and good health.
Cardinal Tom, THANK YOU.