There was shock and disbelief in Auckland and beyond at the news of the loss of Wenceslaus Anthony, who died in India on July 23 after a very brief illness.

His passing came just two months after receiving the papal honour “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice” in recognition of his service to the Church both in New Zealand and in India.

Mr Anthony, 59, had been on an eight-week working holiday, during which he was admitted to hospital in Chennai after feeling sick. He suffered kidney failure, which led to multiple organ failure.

The funeral Mass was held in India.

St Mary’s church in Avondale was filled to overflowing for a memorial Mass for Mr Anthony on July 25. Many of those present felt the loss of Mr Anthony deeply, as he was a noted leader in New Zealand’s Indian community.

Parish priest Fr Matthew Vadakkevettuvazhiyil, SDB, said in his homily he had struggled to come to terms with the news of the passing of a man he called “a brother”.

“We were close friends, we shared many things, and in particular we had great plans as this parish is preparing for the centenary in 2021,” Fr Vadakkevettuvazhiyil

The priest reminded the congregation of the presence of Jesus in their midst, who had said “I am the Resurrection and the Life”. “God is the master of life and will call all of us at his own time, in his own way, in whichever way he wants, in the place he wants . . . .”

Fr Vadakkevettuvazhiyil also said he had heard how much Mr Anthony had enjoyed being on pilgrimage in the Holy Land just before he died, walking “where the Lord walked”.

The priest described his friend as “a beloved, loyal son of the Church”.

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said in a statement:“Wency was a man of deep faith who had been deeply touched by his association with Mother Teresa of Calcutta in his earlier years.”

“Wency was a natural leader, but also a man of great personal humility and simplicity,” Bishop Dunn said.

“He was a much loved member of St Mary’s parish, Avondale, but also played a key role in a number of diocesan initiatives including the Conquest Youth Group for boys, the Divine Retreat Centre Potta movement in Auckland, and the annual celebration to honour Our Lady of Vailankanni which draws hundreds to Avondale parish for a novena each September.“

Mr Anthony also established the annual Mother Teresa Inter-Faith Event which drew people of all faiths, along with local and national politicians, to honour the spirit of this contemporary saint who has influenced so many.

At the time of his death, Mr Anthony was also a member of the Board of the Catholic Caring Foundation.

“Wency touched the lives of thousands, and we will all be praying for the repose of his soul, and for his wife Susan and his children Sneha and Akash at this sad time,” Bishop Dunn said.