Father Harry Costello was once called from Whanganui to Taihape in the middle of the night to visit a man who he believed was sick.

When he arrived the man looked healthy.

"I said 'Why did you ring? You look a very fit man.' 'Oh', he said, 'I just wanted a chat."

Father Harry was ordained 60 years ago, at the age of 25. He and three others will have their decades of service celebrated in a Jubilarians' Mass at St Mary's Church in Whanganui at 5pm on September 18.


Harry Costello grew up in County Rosscommon, in Ireland, one of seven children in a farming family. He was very keen on sport and played football for his school, St Jarlath's College.

He trained for the priesthood at All Hallows College for six years. He wasn't sure where he wanted to serve after that, but the Wellington Archdiocese was looking for young priests and his rector thought he should go.

It was a long journey by boat, but the green fields of New Zealand were not so different from Ireland for the farm boy. One of his first parishes was Wairoa.

"I was living in the main street. They were all rubbing noses. It was very Māori, but I liked it. They were lovely," he said.

In Whanganui Father Harry lived in Castlecliff. He walked on the beach every day and took Mass at St Vincent's until it closed. After that he was Whanganui Hospital's Catholic chaplain for 20 years.

He enjoyed friendships and dinners, visits back to Ireland and hosting Irish relatives in New Zealand.

He's looking forward to the Mass of Thanksgiving. He'll be able to chat to former parishioners, then enjoy a dinner and Irish whisky tasting with colleagues.

Another priest being celebrated on Tuesday is Monsignor John Carde, who grew up in Whanganui and served in Wellington parishes and as an army chaplain. Like Father Harry, he was ordained 60 years ago.

As was Father Earl Crotty, who is well known in Whanganui, and will also be celebrated.

The fourth priest is Father John Roberts, who has served 40 years in Patea and Whanganui, and is the St John Ambulance chaplain.

+ People from across the Wellington Archdiocese will be attending the Mass, and can stay for drinks and nibbles after it. It is being held in Whanganui because all of the jubilarians have close connections here.