Waikato-born priest Richard Laurenson has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new Catholic bishop in the Hamilton Diocese.
The appointment was announced in Rome last month. Laurenson replaces Stephen Lowe, who was appointed Auckland bishop two years ago.
It means all six New Zealand dioceses now have a bishop.
Laurenson says he is looking forward to his new role with a mix of fear and peace and is praying that he does not disappoint.
He is the parish priest at All Saints by the Sea in Papamoa Coast and has served in other parishes around the diocese in Waihi, Taumarunui and Hamilton.
Laurenson was born in Hamilton in 1968 and was ordained by Bishop Denis Browne in 1995.
He attended Holy Cross Seminary in Mosgiel, has a Baccalaureate in Theology from Otago University (1992) and studied for and obtained a Licentiate in Canon Law from Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome from 2007 to 2010.
As a military chaplain for a decade, he served for a time with peacekeeping forces in Bougainville and Timor Leste.
Laurenson is the first priest since Bishop Max Takuira Mariu to have been in the diocese. Mariu, who was auxiliary bishop of Hamilton from 1988 to 2005 and the first Māori to be ordained a Catholic bishop, was born in Taumarunui and died in Auckland 18 years ago.
Laurenson says being a parish priest means always thinking parochially, with a nod to diocesan impacts.
“This change in my situation will take some getting used to, so I beg the indulgence of my brother priests and the good people of God in the diocese as we all get to grips with my new situation.”
The Hamilton Diocese is a huge one and a multi million dollar business.
It starts in Huntly at St Anthony’s, down to Hamilton and across to the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty, down the eastern coast to Gisborne, east to Taupō, Tūrangi and Taumarunui and then up the west coast to Hamilton with everything in between.
Formed in 1980, the diocese has five secondary schools, two of them in Hamilton, 28 primary schools and two early childhood education centres.
Its cathedral is the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton East where Laurenson is expected to be ordained on Friday December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception.