Paul Martin SM --- the Tenth Bishop of Christchurch
Paul Martin has been a significant presence in the Society of Mary in New Zealand, especially in the education ministry. Since his ordination twenty-four years ago he has taught at Pompallier Catholic College, St Bede’s College, Hato Paora College, St Patrick’s College, Welington. He followed a short period as Deputy Rector of St Bede’s with six years as Rector of St Patrick’s Wellington. In recent years he served on the Society of Mary Provincial Administration in Wellington and then on the General Administration in Rome. He was called to become the next Bishop of Christchurch in December 2017.
In the Apostolic Letter that appointed Fr Paul Martin SM as the tenth Bishop of Christchurch, Pope Francis referred to Paul’s background in education, his pastoral ministry, and, more latterly his management of the Society of Mary’s world-wide finance. These are indeed some of the skills and experience that Paul brings to his new position. However, those who were present at his grand ceremony of Ordination to the Episcopacy in Christchurch saw more than a glimpse of the real man who will fill this position.
Paul spoke towards the end of the ceremony in a very moving way of the influence on him of his mother, Carmel, who was present, his father Ron, who died when Paul was at school, and his siblings and his wider family, thanking them for their love and for the values they instilled in him. That he showed his emotion then, and again a little later when he spoke of his Marist family, underlined the type of person who will lead the people of the Christchurch diocese into the future --- a man of deep loyalty and compassion, a man of who reflects profoundly on his experiences, a man who understands the defining influences on his life, a man who knows he relies on the support surrounding him, a man in touch with his humanity, and a man of God.
For the people of Christchurch this was a joyful moment. Two years in the waiting for a new Bishop, the sense of relief and expectation was palpable. Here is a leader who has the skills and broad interests to carry on the great work of his predecessors in the key areas of pastoral ministry, education and evangelisation, as well as providing an exciting and coherent vision for the future.
For Marists present, this was, in some ways, a bitter/sweet moment. The ultimate response to the Gospel for any Marist is to answer the call to serve the Church in the best way possible. Paul has answered that call and we support him and admire him. There remains for us, though, the loss of his company in our communities and work places, where we will miss his great commanding, yet gentle, presence as we lingered over the evening meal, his sometimes boisterous humour, his quick wit, his love of repartee and story-telling, and most of all his deep and considerate care for us as our community Superior.
Paul has been gifted with the Bishop’s crozier used by Bishop John Grimes SM, the first Bishop of Christchurch. Bishop Grimes, also a teacher, was summoned from the Marist mission school in New Orleans, USA, to be ordained the first Bishop of Christchurch in 1887. He built the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and founded St Bede’s College. Paul will build (or rebuild) a new Cathedral; he will be an enormous support to the schools of the diocese with his abiding love of Catholic education; he will be a constant, loving, joking, caring, compassionate and faithful presence as Bishop of Christchurch. We congratulate him and pray for him.