There was a deep sense of joy and gratitude as family and friends gathered around the altar for Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Palmerston North to celebrate the ordination to priesthood anniversaries of Bishop Owen Dolan, (65 years), Msgr David Bell and Fr Peter Fahy (both 50 years) on July 27.

The three publicly said “thank you” to the large congregation which filled the cathedral. They acknowledged the faith witnesses of many people as having nourished their lives as priests throughout.

From left: Msgr David Bell, Fr Peter Fahy and Bishop Owen Dolan

“As every priest knows, or quickly learns, it’s the faith, love, sacrifices, hopes, struggles and courage of those he serves that urges him on, inspire[s], empowers and enables his perseverance,” said homilist Bishop Peter Cullinane, Bishop Emeritus of Palmerston North.

“And so to all of you who have inspired us, prayed for us and supported us with Dave, Peter and Owen, we say ‘thank you’. This jubilee is your day too. You are rightly proud of them and they of you,” he said.

Bishop Owen Dolan

When Archbishop Peter McKeefry laid hands on the young Owen Dolan in St Joseph’s church, Hawera, on July 21, 1954, little did he anticipate that his priestly life would involve much travel. But he had had some experience of travel by then, having fond memories of following his surveyor dad around Taranaki, which might also explain his large collection of maps.

Early appointments took Fr Dolan to parishes in Taranaki and Wellington. Then, in 1973, it was off to Peru, where he stayed until 1978 working alongside the Columban and the Maryknoll Fathers in Lima and Arequipa.

“Working with the Latin American people impacted on me and shaped my life as a priest forever,” he said.

Again, it was to parish ministry in Wellington when he returned. In 1981 he was appointed vicar general of the Archdiocese of Wellington and became national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. He was ordained Coadjutor Bishop for the Palmerston North diocese on December 10, 1995.

With the rare title of Emeritus Coadjutor Bishop of Palmerston North, he still walks every day and still contributes significantly to the life and mission of the diocese.

Fr Peter Fahy

It was Catholicism that attracted English-born and Anglican Peter Fahy first; priesthood followed afterwards. Immigrating to New Zealand in 1952, his family settled in Richmond, Nelson. He was received into the Catholic faith in 1958, noting Marist Fr Jess Kingam’s wisdom and support as critical.

Thoughts of a vocation were gradual.

“At St Bede’s College, I decided to give the seminary a go and kept on from there,” he said.

Ordained by Bishop Owen Snedden on July 9, 1969, in Richmond, his parish appointments took him to Levin, Napier, Palmerston North and New Plymouth plus tertiary/university chaplaincies. He held national and international positions in the scouting movement, being awarded the Silver Tiki bar in 2000 — which is the second highest scout award. On the local scene, he was involved in musical societies and orchestras.

Priestly highlights were meeting a German priest in Brussels and discovering both their fathers had fought against each other in WWII.

“Another was offering Mass in Christ’s burial tomb in Jerusalem. Celebrating Mass on a tree stump on the Matemateaonga track with Mt Ruapehu behind me and Mt Taranaki in front was a truly sacred moment,” he said

Now retired to Levin, he still plays the violin for the Manawatu Sinfonia and does priestly supply.

Msgr David Bell

Being involved in the Catholic Youth Movement and Young Christian Workers gave Christchurch-born David Bell the grounding of the Church’s mission and a love of Christ.

“After 7 years as a pharmacist, I decided to test my call and applied to enter Holy Cross Seminary. I was greatly encouraged by friends who were already
there,” said Msgr Bell.

“To me, being a priest means reaching out to other people in the service of God, wanting others to experience the same love of the Church as myself,”
he said.

After ordination by Bishop Owen Snedden on July 8, 1969, in Blenheim, he served in parishes in Taranaki and Hawkes Bay. Before coming to Whanganui in 2002, he was the first year formator for 3 years at Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland.

In 2003, he was named vicar general for the diocese. Surprised at being granted the title of Monsignor in July, 2008, by Pope Benedict XVI, the congregation immediately responded with a standing ovation. “I’m stuck for words,” he said at the time.

Keen on rugby, he was a referee for many years and served at the Whanganui Rugby Union. During the Rugby World Cup in 2011 he was chaplain to the French team.

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