by ROWENA OREJANA
The oldest priest in New Zealand and oldest Mill Hill father in the world celebrated 70 years as a priest as Auckland diocese honoured him and 10 others for their years of service to the Church.
Fr Anton Timmerman, MHM, aged 97, served most of his life in Rotorua and left only a couple of years ago to live at the priests’ home, St John Vianney House, in Ponsonby.
Fr Leo Doyle and Msgr Terry Leslie were honoured for their 60 years of service as priests while Fr Bob Brennan, SSC, celebrated 50 years as a priest.
Forty year jubilarians included Fr Peter Choy, Msgr David Tonks, Frs John Owens, SM, Lui Tavaga, Frank Garcia, John Webb and Soane Lomu, SM.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn celebrated the Mass at Immaculate Conception parish in Ellerslie on October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The homilist, Hamilton Emeritus Bishop Denis Browne, pondered on the number of times those priests prayed the Rosary in the years of their service.
“Our jubilarians, when they look back on their years of priesthood, 40, 50, 60, 70 and all those years of priesthood, their faith is such a strong faith that they know that it is not themselves who have lived their
priesthood, but rather it is Jesus using his presence and influence in their lives as they have faithfully lived out their service of God in that period of time,” he said.
Auckland Council of Priests chairman Msgr Paul Farmer later noted, “the divergent histories and stories of these men tell us that priesthood is not for the weak and fainthearted”.
Fr Timmerman, fondly known as Tim, was ordained to priesthood in Rosendall, Holland, on December 9, 1945. Delayed by the war, he arrived in Auckland in 1948.
He was first appointed to Waitaruke, north of Whangarei, for 11 months and then to Rotorua.
“His closeness to and love of the Maori people and culture is the stuff of legend. He says that he always struggled with the spoken Maori language but never with his love for the people and the joy it gave to minister to them,” Msgr Farmer related.
Zealousness and diligence should be the middle names of Fr Doyle, said Msgr Farmer.
Born in Banbridge and trained for foreign missions in All Hallows College in Ireland, he was ordained on June 12, 1955.
Upon arriving in New Zealand in the same year, Msgr Farmer said, Fr Doyle was told to go to Dargaville but not to take any luggage, as he would be there only for a week.
“The week turned out to be five years.”
Msgr Farmer said he has many memories of Fr Doyle as he, a young altar boy then, served at many of Fr Doyle’s Masses in Papatoetoe.
Msgr Farmer remembered a time when Fr Doyle went swimming with some young people. Fr Doyle slipped away and locked himself in his car to say his breviary.
“That symbolised for me, a priest living and enjoying being with his people but also the man apart, going to a quiet place to commune with his Lord,” Msgr Farmer said.
Msgr Terry Leslie, celebrating 60 years of priesthood, is “one of Auckland’s great treasures”.
Msgr Farmer said Msgr Leslie’s claim to fame was “that he, Msgr Leslie, trained Bishop Dunn”. Bishop Dunn was Msgr Leslie’s altar boy and curate.
“I taught him all he [Bishop Pat] knows,” Msgr Leslie would brag.
Ordained at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland in 1955, Msgr Leslie was deeply involved in the Catholic Youth Movement in the 1960s, becoming the director of the movement.
Fr Bob Brennan was born in Auckland. He was ordained in St Patrick’s Cathedral on July 3, 1965 and served as a missionary in Korea, working with the urban poor and serving as the rector of the Korean Columban Initial Formation
In 2012, Fr Brennan was awarded the Seoul City Grand Prize for welfare and made an honorary citizen of Seoul. In 2014, he was awarded the Seoul City Grand Peace Prize.