Lifelong happiness following Christ

Obituary: Pa Yvan Sergy.

Obituary: Pa Yvan Sergy.

Pa Yvan Sergy.

The priesthood crept up on Pa Yvan Sergy, a former Gisborne Catholic parish priest who died recently at the age of 59.

As he entered his teens, he wanted to study science and meteorology, and had no interest in the priesthood.

But when being Catholic emerged as an impediment to his gaining a job he wanted, Yvan Sergy made a comparative study of Catholicism and the Protestant religions and decided not to seek the job.

And when he and his girlfriend, a Protestant, talked about marriage, she told him it seemed like someone else was between them, and said, “Go and search”.

Yvan recalled a question put to him when he was 12. Had he ever thought of putting himself in the service of the Church? He decided to live in a Cistercian monastery for three months to settle the question of whether to follow the religious life.

Decades later he could still recall the morning he woke knowing he was called to be a priest.

“From that day I changed,” he said.

“I had a clear sense of Christ saying, ‘follow me’. It was a promise of lifelong happiness.

“Today I can still say I am a happy priest.”

Pa Yvan made those comments in 2014, as he was about to take up an appointment in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

He had two spells in Gisborne — from 2002 to 2007 and from 2009 to 2014. His second posting here carried the challenge of the repair and refurbishment of the Church of St Mary, Star of the Sea, made necessary by “leaky building” problems with a structure opened in 1995.

Parish fundraising, help from the Hamilton diocese and other contributions accounted for the $1.4 million cost.

Born and raised in Switzerland, Yvan Sergy was the elder son of a French-speaking father and a Swiss-German-speaking mother. He was 17 before he knew he was speaking two languages, crossing from one to the other without realising it.

He first came to New Zealand in 1987 as a seminarian on pastoral placement. The following year, he was ordained a priest in Switzerland. Thirteen years later, he was invited to be a Fidei Donum (Gift of Faith) priest — a priest of the universal mission of the Church.

Pa Yvan came to minister in the Hamilton diocese, first at the Cathedral in Hamilton, then in Tauranga and then in Gisborne. He also made five trips to Antarctica ministering to personnel at McMurdo Station on Ross Island and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

In 2006, Pa Yvan became a New Zealand citizen.

Catholic priests are normally given the honorific “Father”. The honorific “Pa” was given to Yvan Sergy in Gisborne by parish kaumatua Jack Taituha and was also used by kuia Peggy Kaua. Pa Yvan said that while he was happy for people to use any form of address they felt comfortable with, he was moved at having been called “Pa” by two such well-respected members of the parish and Maori communities. Gisborne/Turanganui a Kiwa was like his second “home town”

While in New Zealand, Pa Yvan was on contract to the Bishop of Hamilton. As the end of Pa Yvan’s third contract term approached, the Bishop of the Marquesas Islands asked Pa Yvan’s bishop in Switzerland for a French-speaking priest. Although French and Tahitian are the official languages of French Polynesia, the various Marquesan languages are the main means of communication in the 15-island archipelago.

The concern of the Marquesas Islands bishop was that when youngsters left the islands for further education in Tahiti or France, their deficiencies in French made it harder for them to get ahead.

It was felt that Pa Yvan, with his fluent French and aptitude for languages — he had made big strides in Maori — would be able to help develop the French language ability of young people in the diocese to which he was appointed.

The plan was for him to be in the Marquesas Islands for four years, with an option for the term to be renewed.

However, the onset of motor neurone disease intervened, and in 2017 Pa Yvan returned to the Hamilton diocese so he could receive specialist treatment unavailable in the Marquesas Islands.

Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton, followed by burial at the Ohaupo Catholic Cemetery.

The priesthood crept up on Pa Yvan Sergy, a former Gisborne Catholic parish priest who died recently at the age of 59.

As he entered his teens, he wanted to study science and meteorology, and had no interest in the priesthood.

But when being Catholic emerged as an impediment to his gaining a job he wanted, Yvan Sergy made a comparative study of Catholicism and the Protestant religions and decided not to seek the job.

And when he and his girlfriend, a Protestant, talked about marriage, she told him it seemed like someone else was between them, and said, “Go and search”.

Yvan recalled a question put to him when he was 12. Had he ever thought of putting himself in the service of the Church? He decided to live in a Cistercian monastery for three months to settle the question of whether to follow the religious life.

Decades later he could still recall the morning he woke knowing he was called to be a priest.

“From that day I changed,” he said.

“I had a clear sense of Christ saying, ‘follow me’. It was a promise of lifelong happiness.

“Today I can still say I am a happy priest.”

Pa Yvan made those comments in 2014, as he was about to take up an appointment in the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

He had two spells in Gisborne — from 2002 to 2007 and from 2009 to 2014. His second posting here carried the challenge of the repair and refurbishment of the Church of St Mary, Star of the Sea, made necessary by “leaky building” problems with a structure opened in 1995.

Parish fundraising, help from the Hamilton diocese and other contributions accounted for the $1.4 million cost.

Born and raised in Switzerland, Yvan Sergy was the elder son of a French-speaking father and a Swiss-German-speaking mother. He was 17 before he knew he was speaking two languages, crossing from one to the other without realising it.

He first came to New Zealand in 1987 as a seminarian on pastoral placement. The following year, he was ordained a priest in Switzerland. Thirteen years later, he was invited to be a Fidei Donum (Gift of Faith) priest — a priest of the universal mission of the Church.

Pa Yvan came to minister in the Hamilton diocese, first at the Cathedral in Hamilton, then in Tauranga and then in Gisborne. He also made five trips to Antarctica ministering to personnel at McMurdo Station on Ross Island and Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

In 2006, Pa Yvan became a New Zealand citizen.

Catholic priests are normally given the honorific “Father”. The honorific “Pa” was given to Yvan Sergy in Gisborne by parish kaumatua Jack Taituha and was also used by kuia Peggy Kaua. Pa Yvan said that while he was happy for people to use any form of address they felt comfortable with, he was moved at having been called “Pa” by two such well-respected members of the parish and Maori communities. Gisborne/Turanganui a Kiwa was like his second “home town”

While in New Zealand, Pa Yvan was on contract to the Bishop of Hamilton. As the end of Pa Yvan’s third contract term approached, the Bishop of the Marquesas Islands asked Pa Yvan’s bishop in Switzerland for a French-speaking priest. Although French and Tahitian are the official languages of French Polynesia, the various Marquesan languages are the main means of communication in the 15-island archipelago.

The concern of the Marquesas Islands bishop was that when youngsters left the islands for further education in Tahiti or France, their deficiencies in French made it harder for them to get ahead.

It was felt that Pa Yvan, with his fluent French and aptitude for languages — he had made big strides in Maori — would be able to help develop the French language ability of young people in the diocese to which he was appointed.

The plan was for him to be in the Marquesas Islands for four years, with an option for the term to be renewed.

However, the onset of motor neurone disease intervened, and in 2017 Pa Yvan returned to the Hamilton diocese so he could receive specialist treatment unavailable in the Marquesas Islands.

Requiem Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton, followed by burial at the Ohaupo Catholic Cemetery.

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