The ordination of Bishop Richard Laurenson to the New Zealand diocese of Hamilton means all six Kiwi dioceses have bishops, and can focus on mission, said Bishop Richard Umbers.
Bishop Umbers was the Australian bishops’ representative at the ordination, held at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton on 8 December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Newly-ordained Bishop Laurenson is a canon lawyer and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Hamilton in 1995.
He also served as a military chaplain for more than a decade, ministering to peacekeeping forces in Timor Leste and Bougainville.
Since he was appointed by Pope Francis on 25 October, Bishop Laurenson said he was oscillating between “peace and terror.”
“I find it hard to believe that the Lord wants me to do this; I pray that I do not disappoint him too much,” he said.
The consecration was also a homecoming of sorts for Bishop Umbers, who is a Kiwi by descent and completed his university studies in Hamilton, where he also joined Opus Dei.
He enjoyed seeing old friends at the ordination, but years in Australia have taken their toll on our Sydney auxiliary bishop.
“I was referred to as ‘the Australian’ and they commented on my Australian accent,” he said.
“I was actually quite taken aback by just how strong the Kiwi accent is.”
Bishop Richard said with the new generation of NZ bishops, “it’s clear there’s a new push for mission and evangelisation.”
“I think you’ll see a big push in that regard. The church is small but ready to evangelise. Especially the young people.”
The current generation of NZ Catholics have been formed by initiatives like the “Hearts Aflame” youth conference, held since 1992, which has been an engine room of evangelisation and vocations, he said.