by KATHLEEN CASEY
CHRISTCHURCH — The pastor believed to be New Zealand’s oldest Catholic parish priest has been promoted. At age 92, Msgr Tom Power of Beckenham left to meet his beloved Master on June 28 after a short illness.
“He made it clear he loved being a priest,” said Bishop Barry Jones at the requiem Mass celebrated on July 4 at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral.
“His love of the Mass and his belief meant that he wanted to do this for as long as he could,” Bishop Jones said.
As director of Catholic schools in Christchurch from 1962 to 1976, Msgr Power was heavily involved in Government negotations on integration, while also a full-time parish priest and the diocesan chancellor. He also served on the financial councils of the seminary and the bishops’ conference.
“One of his lasting contributions was his design and development of the clergy trust fund,” said Bishop Jones. In the early 1970s this introduced equal remuneration based on justice, charity and fairness rather than on what a particular parish provided. Msgr Power’s accountancy skills and his relationship with fellow priests won support for something very new, said Bishop Jones. This remains a radical move.
Msgr Power negotiated changes and managed stress after Vatican II and always remained in good spirits, the bishop said.
Raised in Greymouth in a long-lived family of seven, Tom Power was educated by the Marist Brothers. He was conscripted at age 21, in 1941. He entered Holy Cross seminary in 1947, and was ordained in 1953.
His first appointment was to Ngahere on the West Coast, followed by chaplaincy at Burnham military camp. Other appointments were to Ashburton, the Chatham Islands, St Albans, Kaiapoi, and Beckenham in 1987.
Msgr Power was made a Prelate of Honour in 1977. He is survived by two brothers, Leo and Kevin (Br Gabriel, FMS) and a sister, Eileen Gebbie.
Interviewed for his 90th birthday two years ago, Msgr Power explained why he didn’t want to retire? “If I sat and looked at four walls I’d go mad,” he said. Needing a hip replacement at that time, he was otherwise fit and well and always available to his parishioners.
Bishop Jones said at the requiem Mass: “The Lord exercises his high priestly ministry through ordained priests. Msgr Power committed himself to the priestly ministry and remained faithful to it all down the years.”
by KATHLEEN CASEY