In his priestly ministry, Msgr Pat Ward was a friend to so many people because he was first a friend of God’s.

That was one of the tributes paid to Msgr Ward by Bishop Denis Browne at a vigil Mass at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church in Epsom on September 16.

Msgr Ward, 81, died in Christchurch on September 12. He had been visiting family there and had suffered a stroke a few days before he died.

Bishop Browne described Msgr Ward as “a loved priest, a priest who loved God, a priest who served the Lord and served God’s people”.

“Every one of us will have memories of the way in which Msgr Pat Ward has affected us in his life as a priest. He has always been a priest who loved people and who loved the occasions of life and enjoyed them.

“He has always been a friend of the people, because he has been a friend of God.”

Bishop Browne also noted Msgr Ward’s “special calling”, which was his involvement in the racing industry.  This elicited laughter from many in the packed church.

“ . . . [H]e developed quite an expertise. He knew the bloodlines of lots of the leading horses, if not all of them. And he could confound you by telling you things that had happened in the world of racing.”

The bishop also recalled Msgr Ward’s great friendship with the late Fr Andy Faith and their mutual interest in racing, which included a friendly contest to see who could pick the most winners.

Each would tell Bishop Browne that he was “on top of” the other in this competition, Bishop Browne remarked, again to much laughter from the congregation.

Another great attribute of Msgr Ward’s was his hospitality, the bishop added.

“No priest would be turned away from his presbytery. No person would be turned away from his presbytery. Pat was such a welcoming person and he knew what hospitality was, and he put it into practice in person.”

Msgr Ward was ordained as a priest in Christchurch in 1960 by Bishop John Kavanagh. As a priest, Msgr Ward served as an assistant in Manurewa, Newton and Matamata. He then served as a parish priest in Waiuku, Balmoral, Epsom, Orakei.

He was chaplain to G.I.F.T Centre from 2009 to 2017. He served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council, the Council of Priests, the Clergy Appointments Committee and was also Vicar for Clergy in Auckland diocese from 2012 to 2016.

He was made a Chaplain of His Holiness in 2012.

A requiem Mass was celebrated at Balmoral on September 17.