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Tears and gratitude: Bishop Donoghue retires after 13 years of service

Tuesday 2 July 2024 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Church Talk, Features

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Tears and gratitude: Bishop Donoghue retires after 13 years of service
John Akava embraces now retired Bishop Paul Patrick Donoghue following his last church service as the Bishop of Rarotonga, Cook Islands on Sunday. MELINA ETCHES/ 24070111

Bishop Paul Patrick Donoghue retired after over a decade of service as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, paving the way for Bishop Reynaldo Bunyi Getalado’s installation as the new leader

On Sunday, June 30, Bishop Donoghue concluded his 13-year term as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Rarotonga and was appointed Auxiliary Bishop.

As the procession in the St Joseph’s Cathedral was led for the final time under Bishop Donoghue’s tenure, soon-to-be 81-year-old Joe Akava Toki struggled to hold back his tears, his heart heavy with gratitude and melancholy.

Outside the cathedral, Akava Toki waited downhearted but patiently for a moment with Bishop Donoghue.

When the time came, his eyes glistened with tears of thankfulness and sadness as he embraced the bishop.

For the past 13 years since Bishop Donoghue arrived at the Catholic Diocese of Rarotonga, Cook Islands, he has been a beacon of spiritual comfort and steady guidance for Akava Toki and the community.

“I’m going to miss him me aravei maua,” says Akava Toki.

“To maua pirianga e tangata akamaroiroi aia iaku, akamaroiroi i te pure, to tatou pure no tatou.”


Auxiliary Bishop Paul Patrick Donoghue and Bishop Reynaldo Bunyi Getalado of Rarotonga, Cook Islands following the special church service. MELINA ETCHES/24070112

On Sunday morning during the Solemnity of the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church Service, Bishop Donoghue retired and Bishop Reynaldo Bunyi Getalado m.s.p was installed as the new bishop.

Bishop Reynaldo expressed his “big gratitude” to Bishop Donoghue for shepherding the Catholic Diocese for 13 years and for the wonderful priests who have entirely dedicated their Christian lives.

Carl Glassie from the Avarua St Joseph’s parish said: “This is an exciting day, not only for the diocese but for the people of the Cook Islands both here and in Aotearoa New Zealand to welcome and support Bishop Reynaldo. We wish him all the best.”

“We also say meitaki ma’ata to Bishop Paul for the support he will continue to give, for shepherding the faithful for 13 years by encouragement and teaching us through the faith on our journey towards Christ. We appreciate what we have learned.

“It is my prayer that we will continue to empower our people, especially our Catholic community.”

Bishop Reynaldo received a beautifully carved tokotoko representing the special staff used by shepherds to protect and manage their flock.

Carver Vainekiki Tomokino said he was honoured to carve the third tokotoko for a bishop of the Cook Islands.

“I’m so happy they asked me to carve this tokotoko, it is very special for an important event, and I’ve done two others in the past,” says Tomokino.

Following the service, parishioners gathered for a kaikai where representatives from each parish on Rarotonga and the Pa Enua, as well as the ethnic groups of the church, voiced their appreciation and welcome addresses.

Bishop Reynaldo is the first bishop of the Cook Islands from a country of Asian origin. His predecessors were from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Aotearoa New Zealand.    

Bishop Donoghue will conduct his final church service on Sunday, July 14 at the St Joseph’s Cathedral in Avarua at 10am.