Fr Kevin Neal
Two of the finest things in the New Zealand Church happen to be in the diocese of Palmerston North. They are very different but they are part of the soul of our Church and perhaps even the wider society of this country.
To see these things, I recently set off with the parish secretary at the cathedral and the bishop’s secretary.
Our first stop was the Southern Star Abbey in Central Hawke’s Bay. The abbey, which was founded in 1954, is the home of Trappist monks and is part of the wider Benedictine family.
St Benedict started his monasteries in the sixth century so his is one of the oldest religious groups.
The abbey attracts numerous visitors from every kind of religious background and many make their start through the parish office of the cathedral or the bishop’s office.
It’s a bit more than an hour’s drive from the cathedral to the monastery, in the farmland of Takapau. From the road it looks like any other farm with a bit more accommodation. The monks live simply so there is no huge abbey church and the best rooms seem to be for the visitors.
There are 10 members of the community but there are also many members who are more or less attached to the monastery. Their main endeavour is the seven hours of prayer starting with vigils at 4am, praying while most of us are still asleep, and continuing off and on during the day.
We shared a prayer time with them, enjoyed a special midday meal and had a good look around. The monastery is now something real and life-giving, not just an idea.
Otane is another half hour up the road. It has a neat main street and all the necessities of Kiwi country living. Otane is not the biggest town in the country, yet it is home to Pleroma Bookshop and Pleroma Ministries.
A mail order operation, the business is out of all proportion to the town. People come from all over the country to have a good look round the bookshop, but, more importantly, they can shop online for every kind of Christian need for speedy delivery direct to their door. From elaborate books to holy cards, Pleroma has it all.
Quite a bit of business is done with Pleroma through the cathedral so it was worth putting names to the faces and seeing that the email address has a keeper. Our small group had a really good look around.
It was an exceptional day, seeing what was behind the normal Kiwi frontages. The places are less than an hour and a half from the cathedral, and are well worth a visit.