More than 600 years of priestly and episcopal service were celebrated in Auckland diocese on July 12.

At the annual Mass for clergy jubilees at Immaculate Conception church in Ellerslie, the following milestones were celebrated: 60 years — Frs Paddy Collins, Peter Gray, Kevin Hackett, Frank Roach, Tom Laffey, SM and David Whelan, MHM; 50 years — Frs Kerry Prendeville, SM, and Rodney Smythe, SM; 40 years — Frs Gerard Whiteford, SM, Trevor Tindall, SM, Brendan Daly; 25 years — Frs Mathew Vadakkevettuvazhiyil, SDB, Talipope Vaifale, MF, and Msgr Bernard Kiely.

At the start of the Mass, Bishop Patrick Dunn noted that this year also marked 40 years of episcopal service by Bishop Denis Browne, the Bishop Emeritus of Hamilton, who could not be present because he was in Europe. Bishop Dunn also noted the recent passing of Bishop Browne’s sister, Mary Ryan.

Bishop Dunn also recalled that Fr Mikaere Ryan, MHM, is “64 years a priest today”. The bishop also noted that this day was the first anniversary of the death of Msgr Lui Tevaga.

In the homily, Msgr Kiely, who is vicar-general in Auckland diocese, said this day was an invitation for all priests to reflect upon their own vocational story and to share it.

“So today is an invitation to think about your vocational story. And you might consider telling somebody about it. We keep so much to ourselves, it is good to go back to the beginning and to share with others.”

Msgr Kiely said his own vocational story started in his mother’s womb, when a priest told his mother in a confessional at Auckland’s cathedral that he hoped her unborn child, if a son, would be a priest.

Msgr Kiely referred to advice given to priests by Pope Francis.

“He encourages us to have a strong relationship with Christ and interestingly he said, turning off the TV at night shouldn’t be the last thing we do. He urges us to be closer to the people we serve and we hear the phrase that we are to smell of the sheep.

“Again and again he tells us to be merciful, to be ministers of God’s mercy. He says be a source of blessing to people. Be a grace to them, not a disgrace.”

Msgr Kiely concluded: “The mission we are called to is to present the face of Christ to an often broken world, to be a presence that blesses and graces and enhances and brings people into the life of Christ. It is a gift, but it is also a task.”

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