“I am no longer a wandering religious. This is my home.”

With these words, the newly-ordained Bishop of Christchurch, Bishop Paul Martin, SM, received the mantle of leadership of a diocese that is recovering from earthquakes as he asked the faithful to “continue to pray for me. Pray for our Church that we may live with integrity, faithful to the call of the Gospel, and always looking to help those who are struggling”.

More than 1500 people filled the Christchurch Boy’s High School Auditorium on March 3 to be at the episcopal ordination of Bishop Martin, the tenth bishop of Christchurch. He succeeded the late Bishop Barry Jones.

Wellington Cardinal John Dew was the principal consecrator while Christchurch Bishop Emeritus Basil Meeking and Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan were consecrating bishops.

Bishops Colin Campbell (Dunedin), Patrick Dunn (Auckland), Steve Lowe (Hamilton) Peter Cullinane (Emeritus -Palmerston North), Denis Browne (Emeritus- Hamilton), Owen Dolan (Emeritus- Palmerston North), Peter Brown, CSsR (Pago Pago), Stuart O’Connell, SM (Emeritus – Rarotonga) and Bosco Puthur (St Thomas the Apostle, Melbourne) concelebrated.

Bishop Martin’s mother, Carmel Martin, and his brothers and sisters and their families were in attendance.

Also present at the ordination were Marist Superior General Fr John Larsen and the current provincial of the New Zealand province, Fr David Kennerley.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Martin Krebs read the papal bull issued by the Pope last December appointing Bishop Martin.

“It appears good to us to entrust this office to you, beloved son,” Archbishop Krebs read. “You are committed to educational and pastoral work as [a] member of a religious family that has been carrying out its eager work already for a long time in the territories of the Pacific Ocean. And you show to be well-equipped with zeal and faith, morality, piety, and human and priestly gifts to properly pasture that flock.”

In his homily, Cardinal Dew reflected that Bishop Martin, as all priests are, had been ordained for a life of service.

“We are reminded that the role of the bishop is not one of honour but of function. And we should strive to serve rather than to rule. You are being gifted today with someone who has come among you and is ready to serve you,” Cardinal Dew said.

He said Bishop Martin sees the people of the diocese as “salt of the earth and light of the world”.

After the ordination, Bishop Martin addressed the people, acknowledging those “who have shaped the many elements that made up my life”.

His 12-minute speech was at times emotional, serious, grateful and funny, often eliciting laughter and applause from the congregation.

He faltered a little, to the point of tears, as he thanked his family for their love and support.

“I feel very blessed to be born to a family that was stable, loving and which showed me what living. . . a Christian life looked like. Mum, you and Dad took seriously your role of forming us. And I’m so grateful for that. You were great parents and you continue to be to me now,” he said. The bishop’s father, Ronald, passed away some years ago.

He thanked the Marists and bade Fr Larsen to bring his (Bishop Martin’s) love back to their confreres in Rome.

To the people of the diocese, he said, “You represent what is at the core of our faith. May we continue together to listen, to hear the Word, to be fed by the Eucharist and to try and live lives that will help our world be the place God created it to be. I now belong to you.”

“I promise I would take seriously my role of shepherding this diocese, to help you play your part in the life of the Church, to be people who spread the Gospel in the circles you move in, to grow in your own personal faith lives and to give witness,” he said.

He thanked Christchurch priests for their warm welcome and acknowledged the presence of Members of Parliament and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, as well as leaders and members of other denominations.

The next day, Bishop Martin was installed at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral. This was the reception of the bishop in the cathedral church of the diocese where he presided at Mass for the first time with the priests and people of the diocese.

New bishop touches hearts of those at ordination Mass

Some of the reactions after the episcopal ordination Mass of Bishop Paul Martin SM, on March 3 at Christchurch Boys’ High School were:

Ethan Evans, St Bede’s College: “I really enjoyed the ordination. I thought it was a lovely Mass. And it’s good to have a bishop back in Christchurch. It was a really emotional speech and I thought he put his whole heart and soul to it. That would really make him a good bishop.”

Sr Marie Jeanne, Wallis and Futuna:“Wonderful. I am so happy. I think he will be a very good bishop for Christchurch and for New Zealand also. I am so happy I don’t know how to explain my joy.”

Sandra Sim, New Brighton parish: “I thought it was absolutely wonderful. I’ve been to a lot of ceremonies in Rome, for a lot of different papal audiences and things like that, but I thought this was really moving. First of all, he was really human. Lots of us who might be wandering off from the Church will think of Bishop Paul and we’ll come back because we know he’s such a human person.”

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