Bishop Colin Campbell of Dunedin may well have participated in a first for the Catholic Church in New Zealand.

While visiting Central Otago to administer the sacrament of Confirmation in early spring this year, the bishop took the opportunity to engage in snow sports with the senior pupils of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Queenstown.

But this is not the first time Bishop Campbell, now aged 76, has joined the children from the school in snow sports, said principal Trish Inder.

“Our students are lucky enough to go skiing or snowboarding every Friday for five weeks during the winter term. This has been going for a long time through NZ Ski. The students travel up the mountain via an NZ Ski bus, have a one and a half hour lesson and the rest of the time they ski or snowboard on the mountain.

“They do pay,” she continued, “but the price is reasonable and we help any families who may not be able to afford it themselves.

“It is an amazing opportunity especially for those students who would not otherwise get to go.  It is amazing how quickly they learn the skills and very soon the beginner skiers are heading up the chairlift.

“When Bishop Colin comes for Confirmation of our students, he often joins them on the mountain as he sees this as a great chance to catch up informally with them and enjoys going skiing himself.”

St Joseph’s School in Queenstown is not the only Catholic primary school in the diocese where snow sports are available to the students as part of the sports curriculum.

On the other side of the Crown Range, Holy Family School at Wanaka, also has a similar snow sports programme.

Bishop Campbell, while domiciled in Dunedin, is a frequent visitor to the many Catholic Schools in his far-flung diocese and he is always welcomed enthusiastically by the staff and students.