Bishop Paul Martin is open minded on the issue of rebuilding the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, waiting until he is fully briefed on the subject before he makes a final decision.
“I am open-minded about the cathedral whether to restore, rebuild or relocate,” he told NZ Catholic in an interview. Previous investigations by the diocese revealed the cathedral could be saved at an estimated cost of $100 million.
“I’ll wait to be briefed on it to continue to get a sense of what the people think and then make the decision. I really need to see what’s happened previously,” said the former bursar-general of the Society of Mary. Bishop Martin was previously in charge of the order’s finances.
“There are obviously some decisions that have to be made. Once I’ve taken advice, I’m happy to make those decisions,” he added.
Bishop Martin said his appointment as bishop did not come as a complete surprise as he had some hints he was being considered for the role. He did not know then it was for Christchurch.
“I didn’t really think it would be me. I thought they’d find somebody else more qualified than me. In that sense, it was a surprise when it happened. But I had thought about what it would mean in terms of my life and what it would ask of me and what my skills are and what (skills) I need to develop,” he said.
He said when Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Martin Krebs informed him (Bishop Martin) of the appointment, he (Bishop Martin) didn’t think of turning it down. “It’s sort of like, it’s already done,” he said with a laugh.
He had some time to reflect on the possibility, though.
“What I thought was, in my religious life, we take the vow of obedience. A number of times I’ve been doing things that I might not have chosen myself. All of those have been graced moments and I met wonderful people,” the new bishop said.
“I thought this was the Holy Spirit obviously working here again. And I will trust in it like I have done before and hope all will be well.”
Bishop Martin is eager to roll up his sleeves and build on what the previous bishops of Christchurch have worked on.
“I’m looking forward to becoming part of this part of the country, to share in their lives and to help us all to grow in loving God and spreading the Gospel,” he said. “I am grateful for the very warm welcome I’ve received so far and I’m really looking forward to the future.”
Bishop Martin noted the diocese had been well-served by the diocesan staff.
“[I’m] coming to a diocese which [has] had good bishops in the past, good priests and parishes. They’ve done quite a bit of the work of getting parish communities together,” he said.
“Fr Rick Loughnan, who has been the administrator, has done a great job and the diocese has kept moving. It hasn’t been static in the last two years waiting for a new bishop,” he said.
Apart from the cathedral, the bishop will be overseeing the on-going building of churches and infrastructure in the diocese as well as repairing churches and properties damaged by the earthquakes.
One of Bishop Martin’s priorities in terms of schools in the diocese is Marian College.
“[It] has been without its own site for the last six years and having been in school, I understand just about what it means for them. I think that it’s really important to sort that out for them,” said the former rector of St Patrick’s College in Wellington.
Bishop Martin also expressed deep gratitude to the Society of Mary with whom he spent 30 years of his professed life and to his very supportive family.
“If the Holy Father by the Holy Spirit sees that they need me to be the next Bishop of Christchurch,” he reflected, “all the things in my life that have happened, that have shaped me into who I am, my family, education, seem to be what is suitable and needed in Christchurch at this time.”