After 50 years as a priest, Fr Des Levins says that if had his life over, he would do it all again. “Wouldn’t change a thing. I have no regrets. Everywhere I have been, the people have been fantastic,” he said, as he reflected on his years a priest.

Parishioners and friends packed Holy Family Church in Whanganui on the evening of June 18 to celebrate Mass, assisted by Emeritus Bishops Owen Dolan and Peter Cullinane and 11 other priest-friends of this popular pastor to everyone.

An Irishman “through and through”, with the distinctive native brogue, he was born in Dublin to devout Catholic parents. The baby of seven older siblings, he is the last still alive.

Ordained at All Hallow’s Seminary in Dublin, this young priest of five months left with other newly ordained priests and set sail for New Zealand.

Abhorring snakes, his first query was to ask if there were any in New Zealand because, as a youngster, he had been told that hell is what you dislike most in this world, and he definitely didn’t want to go to hell!

Arriving in Auckland on November 30, 1966, his first appointment was in Tawa, Wellington, followed by Palmerston North, Hastings and Pahiatua, with Holy Family being his last parish before retiring in 2014 to Broadview Retirement Village.

His life as a priest has coincided with the shift of emphasis as a result of Vatican II. Those changes weren’t difficult because he has always believed the Church is a living Church, and the essentials have never changed.

He’s quite specific and proud about the highlight of his life. His silver jubilee present from his sister, Sr Rosaleen Levins, of the Medical Missionaries of Mary. All a surprise, she organised this through her religious congregation in Rome, for her brother to celebrate Mass with Pope John Paul II at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence.

“I had a talk to the pope afterwards. When I said I was from New Zealand, the pope responded with Aotearoa!” Fr Levins said.

Enjoying retirement and in pretty good health, he still delights in taking part in parish occasions and activities at the village.

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