Tonight Catholic Hamilton celebrated with a parish dinner. I don’t want to impugn my city cousins, but it’s nights like this which make me glad I’m a country priest. It was a classic example of rural hospitality and fraternity. (That, or Fr Andrew’s spirited retelling of Clancy of the Overflow got to me.)

Included in the formalities of the evening was a tribute and farewell to our bishop, Peter Connors, who turned 75 in March, and expects to hand over to his successor within weeks.

Also farewelled was our parish secretary, Marie Cook, who is retiring after 20 years in the job. We got her a new iPad as a parting gift. I know. How cool is that?

Bishop Peter and Marie were farewelled with rousing adaptions of some old favourites. “Pack up your mitre in your Gladstone bag” for Bishop Peter, and “Farewell to St Mary’s forever” for Marie. (I probably don’t need to identify the respective tunes.)

The dinner was also the occasion to mark a few beginnings. I was welcomed with a 5 minute roasting, wherein I grappled with the answers to an unrelenting series of questions about Hamilton and St Mary’s Parish. I passed. Just!

After 104 years having their own parish, the people of Penshurst were brought back into the Hamilton parish last year, so they received a formal welcome tonight.

And Bishop Peter launched Hamilton’s new parish website! When I arrived in Hamilton, a website was in development, but I was unfamiliar with the platform, and the project was crippled with delays and technical difficulties. I advised we start from scratch, using WordPress as our platform, and that’s what we did.

It’s hardly a finished product, but the site went live tonight. Its content will improve in the weeks to come, and in the meantime at least it looks good!