by Lyndsay Freer

Fr Paul Shannahan, SM, retired in February after 55 years of priestly service. He leaves Akaroa parish, where he has served as parish priest for the past six years.In addition to parish pastoral work — he served in the parishes of Island Bay, Whanganui, Nelson, Hastings and Manurewa — Fr Shannahan has carried out a wide variety of other pastoral and administrative activities. He has a private pilot’s licence, is a keen and accomplished photographer, has served as national director of the Catholic Enquiry Centre, leader of the National Renew Programme and national director of the Pontifical Missions for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference.

He has a national reputation as a rose grower, having been a national rose judge and president of the Wellington Rose Society.

In 1991, Fr Shannahan attended Loyola University in Chicago,
gaining a Masters Degree. In 2012, he completed a study course in Jerusalem for three months, and, during his past six years in Akaroa, he completed a Bachelor of Theology through correspondence with Good Shepherd College in Auckland.

Last December, he was awarded the Akaroa Customer Service Award for Excellence, sponsored by the Akaroa Mail, which devoted a full page tribute to him. It was given for his work to achieve the total redevelopment and restoration of the historic St Patrick’s parish church.

The executive officer of Akaroa District Promotions wrote that the priest has been a great pastor, not only for his Catholic fold, but for all people of the Banks Peninsula area.

“He has helped many, many people, whatever their religion, quietly and without fuss. He has helped the Catholic community to form strong relationships with those of other faiths. He has supported tourism by celebrating Masses whenever a cruise ship was in port.”

She described him as a great community person and a real asset to their Fr Paul Shannahan, SM.

Multi-talented Fr Paul steps down community and wrote that he was a real loss to their town.

After a parish farewell function, the chair of the Parish Pastoral
Council, Robin Jones, paid tribute to Fr Shannahan, saying they are very thankful to have had him as their parish priest for the last six years. “I think that his great skill in following the command to ‘feed my sheep’ has been overshadowed by
mention of his organisational and financial skills — which indeed are considerable, but always used in pursuit of growth in faith”.

“He was not only instrumental in the complete renovation of our
historic church, but was an active member of the community and an effective guide toward individual spiritual growth. In pursuit of the latter, he visited every home on the Banks Peninsula, including the outer bays, achieving the personal connection required for both inviting people into faith and guiding their journey,” she said.

“He often mentioned that the buildings of the Church are important, but the members are the real Church. We wish him every blessing as his life ministry continues in another significant direction change.”

The provincial of the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers), Fr David
Kennerley, said that Fr Shannahan reminds him of the description of the spirit-filled evangeliser described by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium.

“He has an ability to reach out to all people, whether people of faith or no faith,” he said. “His work in the Akaroa parish and the many other ministries that have had the benefit of his abilities are a testament to this remarkable gift of his. In recent
years, when many would be hoping to take life a little easier, Fr Paul stepped up to the great challenge posed by the extensive renovation of St Patrick’s church in Akaroa, with resounding success.”

Fr Shannahan will live in retirement in a Marist community in
Christchurch.

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