A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr Kevin Francis Peter Mears sm

Born in Westport, 11 January 1935

Professed 9 February 1955

Ordained 7 July 1959

Died in Kaikoura, 24 December 2016

Thanks to Fr John Craddock sm, for this edited version of his eulogy. 

Allow me to take the name MEARS itself and use it as an acronym for this tribute.

M is for the Mears family

Kevin’s father’s family were gold and then coal miners up on Denniston, tough, rough, diamond people, but as warm as the bituminous Cascade coal they hewed and burned. Jack Mears moved to Westport, married Jane Olsen and started their family. Jack became a wharfie and was caught up in the lengthy 1951 Watersiders’ Strike. Despite the fine family garden and poultry, his family were often reliant on the O’Conor Home farm and accepted the help offered by the St Vincent de Paul Society. Kevin never forgot this, and in gratitude, loved providing home-grown food for others.

In 1947 Kevin won a scholarship to St Bede’s College. From there he went to the Mount St Mary’s Marist Seminary, Napier.

Let the E of Mears be for Kevin’s Enthusiasm

Yes, enthusiasm for everything: for God, for people and for the earth. An early memory of him is on his bike, back in Westport from St Bede’s, cycling to Carter’s Beach. He was often out to see us there, timing the three mile journey from the Buller Bridge over shingle roads and chalking up his best effort into the sou’west wind, at 12 ½ minutes.

A is for his Adaptability

Appointed to the newly-founded Chanel College in Samoa in the early 60s, he not only taught maths and other subjects successfully at public exam level, he levelled the land to create tennis courts which are still in fine condition. He founded plantations and gardens to feed the boarders and taught them to plant, care and harvest in abundance. He coached sports and tended to the sick.

He spent a dozen years in Samoa and another six years in two batches. It indicates his affection for the ministry and the people there. He kept contact with hundreds of his past students all over the world, and the same occurred at Hato Pāora College here in New Zealand.

R is for Rapid Response or its synonym, Speed

Kevin was always on the move, he was quick of foot, and loved where his legs could take him. For example, in July 2012 it was recorded that Kevin Mears was in training as the Catholic Tramping Club Chaplain in Christchurch. He has been seen striding up to the Sign of the Takahe on the Port Hills and back in the dawn at the age of 77. Two years ago, Kevin planned to walk the length of NZ from top to toe. He called for volunteers to accompany him and was aghast that few responded. He looked at me quite pained when I said I could perhaps walk with him from Addington to Hornby but no further!

S in Mears is for Spirituality

Above all, Kevin Mears was a man of God and a son of Mary, in the mould of St Peter Chanel. Loyalty and Service Plus, frugal and chaste, spending himself and being spent for the salvation of souls. Salt of the Earth, Light of the World.

Kevin responded to the Kaikoura earthquake by volunteering to provide Christmas Communion in the town. That was the final context of the life of this faithful and remarkable Marist missionary priest, a man for others, who never let a day go by without caring for someone, somewhere, somehow; and like St Peter Chanel, spent himself and was spent for the salvation of souls.


1960 - 1962 St Patrick's College,

1963 - 1974 Chanel College, Samoa

1975 - 1976 St Patrick’s College,

1977 - 1981 Chanel College, Samoa

1982 - 1989 Hato Pāora College

December 1989 - August 1990 Sabbatical

1990 - September 1998 St Bede’s College,

[1995 spent some time in Samoa]

1999 - 2001 St Mary’s, Manchester Street

2002 - 2006 Parish Priest, Waitara

February - August 2007 Renewal: Australia
Europe, Israel, USA

2010 retired, Armstrong Village

2015 Marist Centre, Wellington

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