One of the first phone calls I made on hearing of the death of Bishop Barry Jones on Saturday morning was to the furthest periphery of the diocese of Christchurch, the Chatham Islands. For almost ten years now I have served as Parish Priest of the Chathams. To serve as priest for this remote community is a privilege, and my hope is that in the near future the Chathams will again have a resident priest. Bishop Barry also shared this hope.
It was a privilege to accompany Bishop Barry to the Chathams on his pastoral visitation in December 2014. We spent five days together visiting both Chatham and Pitt Islands, celebrating Baptisms, Confirmations and First Communions, and spending time at Waitangi (the main settlement on Chatham), Owenga, Te One and Kaingaroa, as well as Pitt Island. On the morning we were to leave Pitt the weather closed in and we spent an extra day relaxing together at the home of Bo Lanauze.
Some of the pastoral situations we faced in those days were complex. I wondered how the bishop’s clear conviction of thinking and acting with the Church would survive when face to face with some of the very difficult realities that presented. So often the “pastoral” action is seen as the overlooking of Church teaching and doctrine, and the holding to doctrine is viewed as “un-pastoral.”
What I witnessed in Bishop Barry in those Chathams days was a skilled pastor in action. He compromised nothing of what was essential and led every person he was with to a greater maturity of Catholic faith. There was a real sadness among those I spoke with on Saturday and again this morning.
I thought you might appreciate some of the photos of the visitation, from Waitangi , Kaiangaroa, Owenga (with Tommy Solomon) and Pitt Island.
May he rest in peace.