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New Zealand's only Anglican friary to close

Posted on: June 8, 2016 1:25 PM
Br Damian Kenneth (left) Rev Phil Dyer (Third Order SSF), the late Br Brian Harley and Br Clark Berge at the Tea Ara Hou chapel in 2012
Photo Credit: Anglican Taonga
Related Categories: Friary, Hamilton, New Zealand, waikato

[Anglican Taonga News] After almost 50 years in New Zealand, the Anglican Franciscan brothers at the Friary of the Divine Compassion have decided they need to close.

For almost 15 years the Friary has been a spiritual anchor for Te Ara Hou, which is the Anglican social service community in Hillcrest, Hamilton. But time has caught up with the brothers.

Late last year, Br Brian, who was 90, died. Br Damian Kenneth will soon be moving into a retirement village, while the Revd Phil Dyer – a Third Order Franciscan who has, in recent times, lived at the Friary – will also be moving on.

Br Christopher John, SSF, the Minister Provincial of the ‘Province of Divine Compassion’ (the Society of Saint Francis in New Zealand, Australia and Korea) says the brothers were reluctant to leave Te Ara Hou. He said, “We feel very welcome here, and there is no shortage of ministries. Unfortunately, we lack the brothers to sustain a community life and engagement in ministry. Nor are there brothers available elsewhere in SSF... We need to acknowledge that for now we lack sufficient suitable candidates in this land, and elsewhere, to be able to plan for a future where we can staff a friary such as we have had here.”

Bishop Eric Gowing (a former Bishop of Auckland) invited the friars to Auckland in the late 1960s, and they established their first New Zealand friary in 1969 at the premises of the Auckland City Mission. About 15 years ago Archbishop David Moxon invited the brothers to Hamilton, and they have continued to enjoy the support of Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley and Archbishop Philip Richardson at Te Ara Hou.

Br Christopher John SSF says the closure of the Friary doesn’t mark the end of an Anglican Franciscan presence in New Zealand – just the end of the friary and a community of brothers. He said, “The Third Order of the Society of St Francis are very much the Franciscans on the ground, throughout much of New Zealand and beyond. First Order brothers will continue to visit from overseas and I hope there can be short-term ministry engagements from time to time.”