When Hamilton Bishop Emeritus Denis Browne moved back to Auckland, there was probably no one happier than Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn.
“I’ve been in conversation with Bishop Pat,” Bishop Browne said. “He [Bishop Dunn] was telling me to come back to my home.”
Bishop Browne was born and bred in Auckland and family was the main reason for the move.
“My older brother suffers from dementia. He’s in Mercy Parklands. And so rather than going back and forth from Matamata to Auckland, Bishop Pat kindly offered me this [St John Vianney House] unit which is very nice,” he said. “I’ve been bishop here for 12 years and so it’s nice being back renewing friendships.”
But family wasn’t the only reason behind his decision.
“I also felt that Bishop Pat has got such a heavy, heavy workload, and if I could be of assistance and I hope he could call on me and I think he will,” he added.
In fact, Bishop Dunn had already asked Bishop Browne to look after the parish of Helensville and Huapai for a few weeks while parish priest Fr Carlos Guleng was away. Fr Guleng came back on February 9.
“I felt. . . if I was looking for a way I could continue serving the Church, there are probably more opportunities in Auckland than Hamilton,” said Bishop Browne.
“I think, as long as I’m physically able to help out, I’d much rather continue to be able to help as much as possible rather than be wasting away,” he added.
He admitted with a chuckle that Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe wasn’t very happy with his [Bishop Browne’s] decision, but “Bishop Steve is a young, energetic, pastoral bishop and he’s still getting to know his people. He’s doing a great job”.
Bishop Browne is still settling down in one of the independent living units of St John Vianney House. He said he is learning how to cook and is trying out his skills on his visitors.
He has also discovered the delights of having Auckland Transport’s HOP card, the prepay travel card for trains, ferries and some buses. Senior citizens travel for free at weekends, public holidays and after 9am on weekdays.
Bishop Browne said it wasn’t easy leaving Hamilton as the people there had been very good to him. He recently finished a retreat for deacons in Hamilton, most of whom he ordained.
“I’m happy to be part of the Church in Auckland. It’s such a different Church from the one I left 22 years ago. In those days, the migration was coming mainly from the Pacific Islands,” he mused.
He noted the influx of strong Catholic communities from Asian countries such as the Philippines, India and Korea.
“[These communities] have changed the face of the Church and so it’s nice to be back into a very vibrant community with all these different expressions of piety,” he said.
He acknowledged there are still many challenges.
“It’s a great gift to have priests coming from these communities as well,” he said.
“We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the Church in Auckland is now so mature that it should be producing its own vocations and in the long term, [it] could be vocations of Filipino, Indian or Korean origin but born and bred in Auckland and [who] are very much Kiwis,” he added, “ I hope a few Pakehas as well.”