Christchurch diocese has bid a fond farewell to one of its senior priests, Msgr James Harrington, who died on January 28 at Nazareth House, in the 60th year of his priesthood. Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe was the principal celebrant at a requiem Mass at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Christchurch on February 1.
In his homily, Bishop Lowe described himself as having benefitted from “the Harrington
Finishing School of Formation”. Bishop Lowe spent his pastoral year as a seminarian
with Msgr Harrington at Mairehau, as well as six months with him as a deacon and six months as a young priest. On his facebook page, Bishop Lowe described the senior
priest as “a source of encouragement for me then and throughout the years. He gave me a great love for the Church, he taught me to love the Liturgy and to celebrate it well.
He was a source of wisdom.” Bishop Lowe described him as a “mentor and a friend”.
In Monsignor Harrington, “parishioners found a gentle dispenser of God’s merciful love”, Bishop Lowe said at the requiem. “His homilies were always carefully crafted, and always captured the moment.”
“Over the years, many of us were captivated as Msgr Harrington recounted the stories of our forebears in the faith, the talks he gave and the articles he wrote.”
The bishop went on to say of Monsignor Harrington that “he would always encourage, he would always have another perspective and he always delighted in journeying with his brother priests”.
Speaking at a vigil Mass the previous evening, Bishop Basil Meeking said aside from Msgr Harrington’s many other duties and accomplishments, notably as administrator of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament (1973 – 1983), he “took care first and foremost of the souls entrusted to his pastoral care”.
Bishop Meeking noted the stresses and strains Msgr Harrington endured when the cathedral was renovated in the 1970s.
After studies at Holy Name Seminary in Christchurch (where he was a first day student)
and Holy Cross College, Mosgiel, James Harrington was ordained a priest by Bishop
Edward Joyce in 1957. His appointments were as assistant priest in Hokitika, Rangiora,
Mairehau and Sockburn and then Runanga (Administrator), followed by appointments
as parish priest in Cheviot, Cathedral administrator, parish priest in Greymouth, Mairehau, Ashburton, Tinwald, Methven and Rakaia.
He also served as chancellor of Christchurch diocese and worked on several diocesan
and church-related bodies.
He was named a prelate of honour, with the title “Monsignor”, by Blessed Pope Paul VI
in 1977 and as protonotary apostolic by Benedict XVI in 2005.
An accomplished artist, he had overseen the design and production of stained glass windows at Holy Name Seminary. At the time of his Golden Jubilee in 2007, he reportedly said “Had God not touched me on the shoulder I would probably have been a commercial artist.”
He was also reportedly responsible for the coats of arms of several Christchurch bishops.
Another of Msgr Harrington’s accomplishments was overseeing the design and building of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Mairehau. This church did not survive the earthquakes.