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Bishop Charles Drennan

Last week there was the latest episcopal ordination in New Zealand. Charles Drennan was ordained in the wonderful cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Palmerston North. Bishop Charles is Coadjutor Bishop of Palmerston North. He will take over from Bishop Peter Cullinane as Bishop of Palmerston North upon Bishop Peter’s retirement, probably later this year.

I have been friendly with the Drennan family for about 35 years. They are a strongly ecumenical family. Charles went to Roman Catholic primary schooling, St Teresa’s, Kirkwood Intermediate, a state school, and then he went to the Anglican secondary school, Christ’s College, where I serve as chaplain. We share an interest in the Rosminians. He is what is called an “ascribed” member (a bit like a third order).

He decided to become a Roman Catholic priest during his three years travelling overseas. Most of his training for the priesthood was in Rome. He served as a priest in parishes in Christchurch and Timaru, on the staff of Holy Cross Seminary and Good Shepherd College, and then served for seven years in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Bishop Charles used the same line from Saint Augustine as recently-ordained Bishop Ross Bay: “I am a bishop for you and a Christian with you”

Bishop Charles is putting a strong focus on promoting vocations to the priesthood, “One aspect that Bishop Peter has also been involved with is trying to promote vocations to the priesthood, because there aren’t many young men in the seminary in New Zealand. We could certainly do with more younger priests, so that will be one of my priorities. I will be promoting these vocations to the high schools and the university.” It seems that there are only about five priests younger than the bishop in the diocese.

It is not the easiest time to be a bishop – so let’s pray for Bishop Charles, the diocese, the church and wider community.

You can use the online chapel, and even light a candle.

image source
image: Bishop Peter anointing Charles Drennan source

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18 thoughts on “Bishop Charles Drennan”

    1. David, I have been present at the RC episcopal ordination of a Christchurch bishop a long time ago – so I’d hate to describe it and get it wrong. I know that all the other RC bishops of NZ were present. And I presume they lay on hands – but, and please correct me someone – I think they do it one by one. That at least is also how I recall RC presbyteral ordinations – I think that the other presbyters file past laying on hands one by one. Cf. Anglican ordinations, at least as I’ve experienced them, and seen photos elsewhere – there is generally a “cartwheel”. In the case of episcopal ordinations, all bishops lay on hands at the same time. In the case of a presbyteral ordination, the priests lay on hands at the same time as the bishop. Since Nicaea we’ve needed at least three bishops for an episcopal ordination. Having only one would be valid, but presumably illicit. Of interest to me is that in this case the “chief consecrator” (what we would call the presiding bishop) is the bishop whom he will succeed rather than the archbishop.

      1. I have watched an early copy of a video of the entire service at Palmertson North on Saturday, 11 June 2011.

        And yes Bishop Peter acting alone carried out all the acts of consecrating now Bishop Charles. Shortly after all other bishops present filed past and laid hands on Charles. More like a merry-go-round than a cartwheel.

        The mass was at Bishop Peter’s own cathedral in Palmerston North: he was the president throughout and, of course, held his crook at all appropriate times.

        More interestingly Bishop Peter gave Bishop Charles his own crook. Is that because Charles is coadjutor to Peter?

        The letter of appointment was read. From memory it allowed (then) Father Charles to secure his episcopal ordination anywhere but Rome.

        Of note is the mass, being on S Barnabas’ day, the sentence, collect, readings and homily were said to be all of that commemoration.

        A Roman Catholic priest called by as I was writing this and confirms Propaganda Fidei holds sway here. A disadvantage, he says, of losing that status includes nuncios etc chatting to archbishop’s (‘spcially those with red hats) about being chaufferred everywhere. We both agreed that a bishop (of whatever rank) being permanently chauferred would not go down well in our egalitarian society.

        1. Thanks for the helpful clarification, Alan, and other points you make. Your description of the laying on of hands mirrors the RC way of ordaining priests where Anglicans follow the cartwheel format, and RCs follow what you colourfully term the “merry-go-round”. Blessings.

  1. From the Catholic Encyclopedia under Consecration of s Bishop:

    In missionary countries the consecrator may perform the ceremony without the assistance even of priests (Zitelli, “Apparatus Juris Ecclesiastici”, Lib. I, Tit. i, sect. iv).

    NZ is considered a mission country, and maybe this form was used in keeping with that.

    1. Thanks, Lucia, but no: I already commented that every NZ RC bishop was present. The New Advent encyclopedia is, of course, an interesting historical document but not a reliable current source. You don’t say who regards NZ as a “mission country” – what country would not be regarded as a “mission country”? The Vatican 😉

      1. Bosco,

        Ha, ha!

        I did notice that you had said every bishop was present, which means that they had bishops available to assist. That those available were not used must mean that a point was made of our special mission status, which the bishops, from what I have been told are quite keen to keep. Why we are still considered one, I don’t know.

        I certainly hope, given how close Bishop Drennan is to the Holy Father that things will change, but he will need a lot of prayers.

        1. Lucia, I’m not sure why you suggest that the bishops present “were not used”? I continue to assume that the bishops present filed past one by one to lay hands on Charles in silence. That, unless my memory is faulty (and I’m happy to be corrected), is how RCs ordain at least since Vatican II. The text you quoted is over a hundred years old and I would be very surprised if there are any episcopal ordinations in the manner you describe in opposition to the Nicene Canon requiring at least three bishops. Possibly in China, but certainly not in NZ, “mission status” or not. ps. does USA have mission status, or France, or UK, or Ireland? Blessings.

          1. Bosco,

            You said, “Having only one would be valid, but presumably illicit.”

            Just countering that statement. However, I wasn’t there, and am only going by what has been said on this thread.

          2. Thanks, Lucia. I would continue to hold that in the context in NZ having only one bishop would be valid but I presume illicit. I think one bishop only licit in contexts like the underground church in China, or similar extreme examples – not NZ. Blessings.

          3. As for any other country having mission status, I don’t know. I doubt that the USA would have it, and definitely not France, UK or Ireland. But I do know NZ does.

  2. Robert McLean

    Bosco, I think mission status in the RC Church has to do with the percentage of Roman Catholics in a particular country (maybe percentage of RC’s out of the total population or out of just the Christian population of a country). Australia stopped being ‘of mission status’ sometime in the last 10 years or so. Maybe it happens when RC’ism becomes the largest Christian denomination in a country (that happened, largely due to immigration, here in Aus reasonable recently too).

    Whatever the case, it hasn’t stopped most of my friends referring to the rather grand RC cathedral here as ‘the Italian mission’.

  3. Kia ora tatou.

    Well done Bosco on fostering such an interesting conversational thread.
    The Episcopal Ordination was a wonderful event with great singing from Hato Paora College.
    Regarding Aotearoas Missionary Status, Aotearoa NZ is indeed still regarded officially as a Missionary Country by Rome under Propaganda Fidei.
    This means we do not enjoy some of the autonomy that the RC church in Australia enjoys but there are some benefits to it.
    I am not entirely sure as to why we remain under missionary status but I imagine it as something to do with what Robert has suggested.

    Nga mihi ki a tatou nga hoa i roro i te Ariki

  4. Fr. Christopher

    For the Consecration (now termed ordination) of a bishop in the Catholic Church to be valid, only one bishop is necessary. However, the custom of the Church is to have three bishops. (The Orthodox Church adheres to this also) One as consecrator, and principal celebrant (as opposed to ‘president’) and the other two bishops as Co-consecrators, sensibly they are the assistants to the bishop-elect.

    When a bishop is consecrated with no right of immediate succession, he does not assume the role of principal celebrant.

    If the bishop-elect is consecrated in the Cathedral of which he will succeed (assuming the See is unoccupied) the consecrator will relinquish the throne and then place the newly consecrated in it. In cases like this, it is the Metropolitan of the province who will preform the consecration unless it is the metropolitan see that will be succeeded. In which case, the ceremonies are performed by a cardinal, or the apostolic nuncio or a senior bishop of similar rank appointed by papal mandate.

    A bishop always has the right to carry the crozier. Depending on his status (diocesan or auxiliary/coadjutor) will determine what way his crozier is carried. When he is the Ordinary he carries it in his left hand with the crook facing forward “p”. If he is not, it is carried with the left hand in the reverse position “q”. It is primarily a symbol of jurisdiction. A visiting bishop may not carry the crozier outside of his jurisdiction.

  5. Fr. Christopher

    +AMDG In relation to the laying on of hands at an episcopal consecration, the consecrator and co-consecrators alone perform the laying on of hands pronouncing the words ‘receive the Holy Ghost’. After which all bishops present then come to lay hands one-by-one.

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