The $3.6 million extension of St John Vianney House in Ponsonby was formally opened and blessed on August 5, a day after the memorial day of its patron saint.
The extension will allow seven more priests to live there under the care of the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master. St John Vianney House was built in 2001 and is home to 10 retired or convalescing priests.
On August 5, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn, Hamilton Bishop Emeritus and former Auckland Bishop Denis Browne and Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe blessed the different sections of seven new units which are comprised of three mono pitch roof homes and four double storey homes.
The homes were designed to complement the existing building, while relating to the streetscape of Ponsonby.
Bishop Dunn thanked Auckland Council of Priests chairman Msgr Paul Farmer who spearheaded the project with “dynamism, enthusiasm and outstanding drive”.
Bishop Dunn said St John Vianney House was patterned after Justin Villa, a priests’ retirement house in Melbourne.
He said that before the advent of St John Vianney House, he was very concerned that Auckland diocesan priests had nowhere to go that was their own when they retired or were convalescing from illness.
Justin Villa, he said, was a place that the priests in Melbourne called their own.
“They weren’t there dependent upon the hospitality of someone else. The accommodation was pleasant and spacious. Each priest has his own space where he could meet with friends in his own place,” Bishop Dunn said.
St John Vianney House offered the same benefits to retired Auckland priests with the bonus of being located in the heart of the diocese “where we really appreciate their priestly and prayerful presence”, he said.
“I know it will be a home for priests for many years to come,” Bishop Dunn said, cheerfully adding, “I keep planning to book my own room here, too.”
At the blessing, Msgr Farmer said the fundraising committee was able to raise $1.278 million in over two years. (The rest of the funding came from Auckland diocese).
“We received just on 1100 individual donations, some small, some large, but all given in a generous way. This kind generosity is the sign of the community’s love and respect and appreciation for its priests,” he said.
He expressed his gratitude to the donors and assured them that they will be kept in the priests’ prayers and Masses for years to come.
Msgr Farmer also thanked Sr Justina, Sr Columba and SJVH cook Elizabeth Tuakolo for their patience during the more than 20 months of renovation and refurbishment.
“Let us pray that this place that we have created together may be for our priests a peaceful haven until heaven,” said Msgr Farmer.