Of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Bishop Māriu was born in Waihi and educated at Hato Paora College in Feilding.
After studying for the priesthood with the Society of Mary (Marist) seminary at Greenmeadows, Hawkes Bay, he was ordained to priesthood at Waihi (Lake Taupo) in 1977 and ordained as the first Catholic Maori bishop in New Zealand in March 1988.
by Gavin Abraham
WĀIHI VILLAGE - The breadth of Bishop Max Takuira Matthew Māriu's reach was evident as thousands of people converged on the southern shores of Lake Taupō to remember the Catholic Church's first Māori bishop. Tributes flowed quickly - including from the desk of Pope Benedict XVI - after Bishop Māriu, SM, died in Auckland Hospital on December 12 at the age of 53.
The Hamilton auxiliary bishop's death was described as a "great loss". He was remembered as a "great leader" and someone who "was able to relate right across the board - to young and old, irrespective of church and faith".
Bishop Māriu's body lay in state at two Auckland marae the day after he died before being taken to Tūrangawaewae in Ngāruawāhia, at the request of the Māori Queen - Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. On December 14, his family escorted the body to Hamilton's Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where Bishop Denis Browne celebrated Mass. The body of Bishop Māriu, a son of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, was taken that afternoon to his home marae at Wāihi Village, where he had been baptised 53 years earlier. On December 15, Bishop Browne celebrated the official Requiem Mass in Hamilton, joined by eight brother bishops - including Bishop Stuart O'Connell, SM, of the Cook Islands. Civic leaders and leaders of other churches were among others who attended the Mass.
The focus then shifted to Waihi, and the December 17 Mass and burial. The wet weather couldn't keep mourners away as two large marquees were filled to overflowing and others stood in the rain. They heard of Bishop Māriu's love of music, his passion for composing music and his caring but firm - when needed - demeanour.
During his homily, Bishop Browne spoke of a man who will be sorely missed. "He had a humility all of us would love to possess ourselves," Bishop Browne said. "We feel the loss of someone we would have loved to have spent as many hours as possible with." He recalled Bishop Māriu's immense generosity. He also spoke of the heart problems the bishop encountered from a young age. "Life was never easy for him . . . but he bore that suffering in close union with Jesus Christ and he knew he had the company of Mary in all he did." Bishop Browne said Bishop Mariu will be remembered as "an inspirational leader, a wonderful priest and a wonderful bishop".
Bob Newson, the chairman of Te Rūnanga o Te Hāhi Katorika Ki Aotearoa, said Bishop Māriu's death leaves a "big hole" in the organisation, which sought the appointment of a Maori bishop in the 1980s. Mr Newson said it had been a "privilege" to have Bishop Māriu for 17 years. He said the current members of the Rūnanga will pray and look for guidance from the Holy Spirit to determine, "who, where and when" a Māori bishop - or a bishop to represent the needs of the Māori people - might be appointed.
Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia joined the chorus of tributes for Bishop Māriu, saying he "spent his life in dedication to the advancement of our people, always responding to the call of our whānau whenever and wherever they arise". The Māori Party also moved a motion in Parliament - which received support from the House - expressing "deep sadness" at the bishop's death
E moe e te hoa rangatira i roto i te Ariki.
It was when I was a student at St Patrick’s College Silverstream in
the mid 70’s, I vividly remember being asked to and did pray for a Seminarian who was having major Heart Valve Surgery. That was my first connection with Max Māriu. Several times since, whilst at prayer with Max in a silent room you could actually hear his heart valve pumping away sustaining his life.
In 1977 I was a Novice at Highden, here in the Manawatū. Paddy
O’Neil and I were the only novices from Te Waipounamu and because
of that we were the only two who didn’t have whānau coming to the Open Day. Maybe as
compensation, but in fact a privilege we were allowed to go to Wāihi for Max’s Ordination to
After my own Ordination in 1983 I was appointed to the Marist Māori Mission team in Wellington. While not having lived with Max, I have had a connection with him as a Marist and in Ministry for the past twenty seven years.
Many will remember that special day at Tokoroa in 1988. “Kua tae te wā” as Pā Henare Tate
spoke in his kauhau. The time had come for te iwi Māori and the Church in Aotearoa after
150 years to have a Pihopa.
What has happened since then?
To be honest, many of my hopes and dreams for te iwi Maori i roto o te Hāhi haven’t come to
fruition (so far). I think of the Māori Pastoral Care Plan and the statement
“Kia mana motuhake te iwi Māori i roto o te Hāhi”. Most is still to be done! For example, the
inculturation of the liturgy.
By chance or providence I happened to be in Tūrangi on the 12th of January. That evening
Bishop Denis Brown and several visiting Bishops for overseas along with local Priests and whānau Celebrated Mass at Wāihi for Max’s “months mind” a month since Max had died.
After the Mass one kaumātua reminded us the mahi was still to be done. All that Max stood
for is still ours to continue.
When Jesus died, the Apostles were hesitant and fearful; we have the same Wairua Tapu that strengthened and guided them i te timatanga o te Hāhi. I am convinced God has a plan.
Mate atu he tētē kura, ara mai he tētēkura.
Me haere tonu tātou, kei te hoe te Waka o te Hāhi.
Chris Martin s.m.