Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn’s episcopal ordination might have had a fuse box explosion, power outage, heavy rains and floods. But on July 27, the diocesan celebration of his silver jubilee as a bishop, the sun shone brightly, warming up what was a mid-winter day.
A highlight of Bishop Dunn’s celebration of his episcopal ordination was a letter full of affection from Pope Francis, dated June 29, 2019.
“With this letter, we want to send a loving sign of appreciation for the apostolic ministry you have carried out,” the Pope wrote, and he enumerated the “distinguished offices” Bishop Dunn held in the past 25 years.
“We cannot fail to mention the office of President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of New Zealand which you exercise, as well as the apostolic work which you have carried out so effectively, with cheerful evangelical simplicity, displaying both prudence and kindness.
“Reflecting therefore on this service of yours for the advancement of your flock in the good, we entreat God to reward you on this most joyful day of your anniversary, to strengthen you always as father and teacher of his people, who, by what you say and do, may be led to active charity towards their neighbour,” Pope Francis added.
Bishop Dunn acknowledged the presence of Bishop Denis Browne, Bishop Emeritus of Hamilton, and Bishop Basil Meeking, Bishop Emeritus of Christchurch, at the Mass at St Patrick Cathedral on July 27. Bishop Dunn’s actual anniversary was on July 25.
“We have with us Bishop Denis Browne who actually ordained me 25 years ago as bishop. He’s just celebrated 42 years as a bishop. And Bishop Basil Meeking, the retired bishop from Christchurch, has 32 years as a bishop. So, I’m still something of a baby as far as bishops are concerned,” he said.
Bishop Dunn recalled that, at his first homily as bishop, he quoted from St Augustine: “‘Whenever I am terrified by what I am for you, I am given comfort by what I am with you. For you I am a bishop, but with you I am, after all, a Christian’.”
“The first, being a bishop, is an office and a source of danger. The second, being a Christian, is grace and a means of salvation. And over these 25 years, I’ve always found that it is comforting to remember that, I, too, am simply a member of this Church in this beautiful diocese of Auckland,” he said.
Bishop Dunn said one of his formative experiences in his early years as a bishop was being invited to a synod in Rome in 1998.
“It was a very visionary initiative . . . [St Pope John Paul II] invited every bishop from Oceania to come to the synod in Rome. So, for two or three weeks, we all lived together, and we got to know one another. That was a great blessing. So, if I needed to contact a bishop from the Pacific or from Australia, they were people that I knew,” he said.
He also recalled participating in the 2001 Synod on the Role of Bishops.
“We received a fax from 150 bishops in China who were expressing their support for the synod and for Pope John Paul II, but none of them could get a visa to leave their country and come to the synod,” he said.
“There was another bishop from Sierra Leone, Bishop Henry Ganda. He had this harrowing story that he shared with the synod fathers. He had been kidnapped for twelve days during an uprising during which many of the church leaders in Freetown were killed. Somehow, he managed to escape,” Bishop Dunn recalled.
As an aside, Bishop Dunn related a story about how Bishop Ganda was telling him (Bishop Dunn) how beautiful Freetown was. “He [Bishop Ganda] said, ‘you should come for a holiday,” Bishop Dunn recalled, eliciting laughter from the congregation.
Bishop Dunn said there was another bishop from Cambodia who told them that, though every bishop and every priest in Cambodia died during the Pol Pot regime, the faith didn’t.
“All of these made me appreciate so much how blessed we are to belong to a Church in New Zealand,” he said.
Bishop Dunn thanked all the priests and the religious, the deacons, parish and diocesan staff.
“Especially, for the ordinary parishioners who are the heart and soul of every parish, you’ve been a constant inspiration to me,” he said.