by KATHLEEN CASEY
For more than 100 years, Irish priests came to serve the New Zealand Church. Fr Finian
Conway brought to an end this era in Christchurch diocese with his passing to eternal life
on December 4, 2014.
At Fr Conway’s funeral at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral on December 10, Bishop Basil Meeking said: “Our hearts must be full of gratitude… they [Irish priests] cared for our spiritual welfare, and many of us learned the Faith from them. None was more devoted than Fr Finian Conway, the last of these men.”
The priest has always to be thinking: All I do I am doing with Christ, the bishop said.
“All my activities … constitute only one vocation: to be together with Christ acting as a living instrument in communion with him. That understanding, that faith was the motive
force of the life of Fr Finian.”
In 1988, after an episcopal visitation to Fr Conway’s parish of Halswell, Bishop Meeking
wrote of his admiration for the parish and its “real faith and loyalty to the Church”,
and noted that such a solid parish community owed much to Fr Conway’s pastoral zeal and love.
Earlier, Bishop Brian Ashby had also in a letter written of Fr Finian’s great zeal for his
This zeal was taken to the parishes of Hokitika, Hawarden, Ashburton, Akaroa, Runanga, Sumner, Rakaia, Beckenham and Halswell — to some of those places more than once. “The bishops trusted Fr Conway,” said Bishop Meeking, “and he was often sent into a hard-to-fill vacancy or difficult situation because he was a reliable priest.”
Brought up in a happy home in Mullingar, Ireland, Finian Conway studied at All Hallow’s Seminary in Dublin and did a Bachelor of Arts degree at the National University of Ireland. He was a man of culture who, to others, offered respect, graciousness and affability.
“He had a taste for literature and knew what he was talking about. He brought with him much that was was good from the old country,” said Bishop Meeking.
Fr Conway never traded on his solid capabilities or his fine qualities. He was a modest
man, and being a parish priest was the sum of his ambition.
“His life was all of a piece … he was a good man and a good priest,” said Bishop Meeking.
His happy retirement to Nazareth House was rudely disrupted in February 2011 by the big earthquake then and he and other residents were evacuated overnight. Although a great blow to Fr Conway, this turned out better than he had dared to hope, and at Wakefield, and later Whareama, Rest Homes near Nelson he found true care and friendship in his last days. May he rest in peace.
by KATHLEEN CASEY