A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Death of a Marist

Fr Kevin Manning SM

Born in Gisborne, 6 March 1928
Professed, 2 February 1948
Ordained 26 July 1952
Died in Christchurch, 30 December 2019

Kevin was the son of William and Marie Manning. He was one of five children. His siblings were Ralph and John, whom he told me the other day he was looking forward to seeing in heaven, and his sister Joy Lyons, and his brother Terry who is here today. The family moved from Gisborne to Napier after the 1931 earthquake because his dad was a carpenter and there was plenty of work there for him.

Growing up in Meeanee parish, Kevin was always part of a large Marist enclave nearby. Kevin had his primary schooling with the Sisters of the Missions. In 1942 he went to St John’s College in Hastings – and after a year there he was offered a scholarship to Silverstream, where he went for the next few years. In 1946 he went to Mt St Mary’s Seminary, Greenmeadows.

Kevin’s first appointment as a priest was to St Pat’s Silverstream. There he began extramural studies in Latin and French. In 1959 he was appointed to St Bede’s and completed an MA degree at Canterbury University.

In 1969 he taught me French, and students were very taken with the fact that Judge, as everyone called him, was a youngish man with a bald pate. It shone in the light. I remember one day going past his office and seeing a can of French polish sitting outside the door! Judge said later that one year teaching me was enough and he transferred to what was then called St Patrick’s High School in Timaru where he was the Rector for a number of years. Soon enough he was back at St Bede’s, which was to become the great love of his life. He basically remained there for the rest of his life – and would still make a trip out there to see staff, to celebrate Mass or to preside at benediction. Generations of Bedeans knew Kevin, and called him ‘Judge’. His blood flowed red and black: red with love of God and neighbour and black with selflessness.

There were two other great loves of his life at St Bede’s and in Christchurch that deserve mention -- golf and the printery. Printing became a useful and lucrative pastime for him. St Bede’s Press, as it was called, was under the science labs, and there Judge would spend any free time he had. He was not a desktop publisher and printer. He set type in molten lead. He printed with the old platen method, and then, later, with an offset machine. He printed, among other things, everything the school needed and even parish planned-giving envelopes.

Even when his eyesight failed Judge chased that little white ball all over Shirley Golf Course. I often wondered if the way he could afford the club membership was from the proceeds of the Printery. I didn’t ask!

Judge was a man of routine and always neat and tidy. He always put stuff away. It had a place to go and it always went back in the right place. He wrote on the blackboard with the tidiest script I can ever remember seeing -- he could never have been a doctor! He dressed tidily, and almost always in black, except at golf. He was faithful to his Lord, to his family and friends, to his prayers and Mass and to his Marist vocation.

Judge had a good sense of humour. I remember telling him that the boys thought he was losing it when his hearing started to fail. They’d asked what was for homework and he looked at his watch and said, “about quarter past two”. When I told him he needed hearing aids – he listened and got them. When I told him he had to leave St Bede’s, he listened and did. When I told him he needed to go to Nazareth, he just listened and said, “Well if that’s what I need to do then that’s what I will do”.

In his last few days Judge accepted that the four score and ten was his allotted span. He prayed for you all in those last days and nights. He was told that it was his time to go and so I actually believe he just said to God, “Here I am”. Judge was a good man, he wanted to be in heaven, and when he said that he would continue to remember us when he got there he worried that we might think him presumptuous of eternal reward. We didn’t. Vale Iudex; adieu, mon ami.

Thanks to Fr Timothy Duckworth SM for this summarised version of his eulogy.


1953-1958 : St Patrick’s College, Silverstream

1959-1969 : St Bede's College, Christchurch

1970-1973 : Rector, St Patrick's High School, Timaru

1974-1978 : St Bede's College, Christchurch

September 1978-1979 : Notre Dame High School, Detroit, USA

1980-2001 : St Bede's College, Christchurch

2002-2003 : Argo Place, Christchurch

2004-2019 : St Basil’s Court, Nazareth, Christchurch

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