by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — A priest who hardly ever said no has been honoured for his work in youth ministry with a Delargey Award.
Fr Frank Bird, SM, received the award at a diocesan youth Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on February 24, just days before he was to leave New Zealand to work in a Marist project on the Thailand-Burma border.
The Delargey Awards, instituted by the New Zealand bishops in 2004, are given every two years to people who have made an outstanding contribution to youth ministry and youth activities in the Church.
Bishop Patrick Dunn said that when the diocesan Youth Advisory Council discussed if there was anyone they wanted to nominate for the award, “only one name popped up, and everyone clapped — it was Fr Frank Bird”.
Bishop Dunn paid tribute to Fr Bird’s work in Whangarei shortly after he was ordained, and in five parishes in mid-Northland in the last two years.
The Marist priest also worked with The Logos Project in youth ministry in Auckland from 2003-2010. He identified and nurtured the gifts of many young people and the adults who supported them.
“During these years he became known to thousands of young people around Auckland, through retreat work, helping in schools, supplying in parishes.
Fr Frank had a reputation as the priest who could never say no, so he was everywhere,” Bishop Dunn said.
The bishop also noted Fr Bird’s work in developing the livingtheword.org.nz website, which features weekly Scripture reflections, as well as his contributions to Hearts Aflame summer camps.
Fr Bird believes in formation for those in youth ministry, Bishop Dunn said, so he studied the subject himself during a sabbatical year in the United States and subsequently lectured in youth ministry papers for The Catholic Institute in Auckland. He always encouraged those in youth ministry to take advantage of formation opportunities.
Fr Bird said he loved the journey of youth ministry, and encouraged all working in this area to persevere.
He said that after almost 13 years as a priest, he is almost a teenager. “Who knows what will happen,” he said.
He paid tribute to his mother, who he said had prepared him for a life of love and service.