WelCom March 2017:
When announcing their appointment of Fr Neil Vaney as Chaplain to the Catholic Enquiry Centre late last year, the New Zealand bishops said, ‘Fr Neil brings with him significant experience in and commitment to the work of evangelisation, with a particular gift in enabling young people to hear and respond to the call to faith.’
Bishop Patrick Dunn President of the NZCBC said, ‘Fr Neil Vaney is also a noted moral theologian, with a deep interest in the theology of nature and environmental ethics.’
Prior to his appointment with CEC was Fr Neil was Vicar Provincial of the Society of Mary.
Fr Neil Vaney sm
A Journey to the Centre
In recent months several friends have described to me the impact of visiting sacred sites. One had been to the Suzanne Aubert Centre in Island Bay – so much more than a museum. It was as if Suzanne’s world of poor immigrants, of needy women and Māori medicines leapt out and pulled her in. Similarly my friend who visited the Mary McKillop Centre in North Sydney was so overwhelmed by the recreation of her life that he vowed to repeat that visit whenever he went back to Sydney.
It is just over a month that I have been pastoral director of the Catholic Enquiry Centre (CEC). What has amazed me has been the huge variety of visitors I have met. Few walk through the doors; most arrive by email or phone, others by the occasional letter. Spread from Invercargill to Auckland – plus a few overseas – their needs are manifold: requests for information about Galileo or the Indian Orthodox Church, pleas for prayers for distressed families, desperate cries from some walking on the edges of conventional sanity.
A Changing Vision
Traditionally the CEC has been an information centre for those wanting more information about Catholic beliefs. What is beginning to emerge is a vision that is much wider, something like a virtual visitor centre or clearing house that is profoundly pastoral and evangelical, bringing the ear and heart of Jesus to many people.
Because of the dedicated work of previous directors like Frs Paul Shannahan and Allan Jones, a strong financial base, a set of loyal supporters and a skilled office staff has grown, able to flesh out this new dream. Using the power of multi-media, of Facebook, of engaging videos, a whole new generation of seekers may be reached. This will then be backed up by the information booklets and dialogue that they in turn may provoke. Online could be punchy articles, clear and engaging answers to questions about Catholic life, and links to sites that provide solid spiritual nourishment.
I know I cannot do this alone. My dream would be to build a venue where many ‘Catholic voices’, lay and religious, would provide reflections, personal sharings and responses to topical questions of such strength and lucidity that CEC would become a lighthouse not just to Catholics but to other sincere searchers looking for truth, stability and love in a tumultuous world.