A colourful Catholic priest who also worked as a flying instructor has died in a crash after his motorcycle collided with a car in Christchurch.
Father Graeme Blackburn, 33, was only ordained seven months ago. His funeral is being held tomorrow after a Vigil Service tonight.
He was travelling along Purau Port Levy Rd, near Christchurch, on his motorcycle about 5.30pm when he crashed.
Father Blackburn was an assistant parish priest at Our Lady of Victories Parish in Sockburn and was ordained on July 1 last year.
He grew up in Auckland and told the NZ Catholic magazine in August last year that when he moved to Christchurch, thoughts of a vocation began.
"When I was 23 or 24 and — I don't want it to sound too crazy — but it was quite an instantaneous thing when I felt, wow, this is something I should consider. It took me three years to join the seminary after that."
Father Blackburn studied political science at university and also worked as a flight instructor.
"I went into the seminary thinking at some stage I'm going to leave," he told the magazine.
"But everything kind of just started falling into place bit by bit."The Catholic Diocese of Christchurch has posted a message about Father Blackburn's death on its website.
"Father Rick Loughnan and Bishop-Elect Paul Martin express their deep sadness at the news of the death of Fr Graeme Blackburn last evening in a road accident.
"We along with the whole diocesan family express our deepest sympathy to Graeme's mother, Erin, and the family at this tragic loss."
A Requiem Mass was to be held at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral tomorrow.Several parishioners paid tribute to Father Blackburn on the Catholic Church's Christchurch Facebook page.
Jackson Saunders said: "I had the privilege of meeting Graeme when I visited Holy Cross in Auckland. He was a down to earth, pastoral and thoughtful man."
Tony and Barb Batchelor said: "He came into our lives just one month after he was ordained and helped us through the enormous loss of our Mum. His faith, kindness and wonderful personality will never be forgotten."
Sue Sullivan said: "Prayers for his mum and family, and all the other seminarians who went through with him. Yet amazing - he gave his life to God as he wanted to. In that short time so much accomplished."
Daryl Dawn Willetts said: "A huge hole left in our community, our parish, our families, our school and our hearts. We will miss you."