Palmerston North vicar-general Brian Walsh had been given the title of Monsignor by Pope Francis.
This was announced by Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan on his facebook page on July 31. “Our vicar-general has been made a chaplain to His Holiness Pope Francis and thereby has had bestowed upon him the honorific title of Monsignor,” Bishop Drennan said.
Bishop Drennan said this title is a recognition of Monsignor Walsh’s contribution to Church governance.
It is usually granted by the Pope upon the recommendation of the bishop.
“In this case we can refer to Monsignor Brian’s service as vicar general to the diocese, chair of the Clergy Trust Fund and also his natural capacity to be a mentor to many,” he said.
“Many of you will also be aware of Monsignor Brian’s generous ministry as a parish priest, his ready sense of humour, and his self-effacing and quiet encouragement of so many of us,” the bishop added.
“I decided to nominate Monsignor Brian because of his mana within both the Church and civic community, his great generosity of spirit, and his wise down-to-earth counsel to so many including myself,” Bishop Drennan said, “Monsignor Brian has a great sense of humour and is a tough competitor on the golf course.”
Bishop Drennan explained being made a chaplain to Pope Francis means Monsignor Walsh becomes a member of the Papal Household.
“Technically this is explained by a rather nice familial image: it means he becomes a member of the Papal Household. While this in practice has little impact when living so far away from Rome, it does mean that if Monsignor Brian is ever in Rome he would be expected to support the Pope through his participation in papal liturgies in St Peter’s,” he said.
Monsignor Walsh said, “If I was asked about this before the application was put in, I would have said no; but it’s an honour for the Catholic community I serve as much as it is for me”.
Others have been direct in their praise. Tony Murphy, manager of the diocese of Palmerston North, said, “This is a truly deserved recognition for a good Kiwi bloke, whose outstanding commitment and leadership shows in his care of those within the Church and the wider community.”
Steph Grantham, who works with Monsignor Walsh at the cathedral, said that many people have contacted the parish team offering congratulations and messages of support.
“Everyone is just so pleased and excited that he and his work have been acknowledged in this way,” she said.
The local Marist Sports Club is delighted with the news that they share a chaplain with the Pope.
Paul O’Brien, well-known local businessman and Marist Sports executive director, said “I and all of us at Marist are delighted to hear that Brian has been recognised in this way for his extraordinary good work.”
In 2014, Pope Francis decided the honorific title “monsignor” should only be bestowed on diocesan priests once they reach age 65, and only after — in the opinion of their bishop — they have rendered noteworthy service to the People of God.