Sunday 5 February 2006 was highly significant in the history of the archdiocese when Cushla Quigan was installed as lay pastoral leader in the parish of Petone. Cushla’s appointment is a first for the archdiocese.
Cushla, accompanied by her family, the Petone parish community, members of the Eastbourne parish community, and parishioners from the Hutt Valley pastoral area gathered at 9.30am at Petone’s Sacred Heart parish church. Also attending were Cushla’s colleagues from the Launch Out Formation programme, and archdiocesan personnel.
On this beautiful February Sunday, Archbishop John Dew and Monsignor Charles Cooper concelebrated the Eucharist which embodied the installation ceremony.
The archbishop asked Cushla if she was ready and willing to give herself to the services of the church as a lay pastoral leader. She was asked if she would serve the people in the manner of Jesus, and give her time and energy to building the faith community. To all these questions Cushla replied, Yes.
Meanwhile the parish undertook to support and pray for her.
Archbishop John then anointed Cushla, and prayed that as at her baptism, may she now be strengthened to make known the ways of God, question and seek the truth and be a faithful witness to the gospel.
As a symbol of her commitment, Cushla was asked to accept a cross to be worn around her neck. Archbishop John urged her to love as Jesus loved, serve as Jesus served, listen as Jesus listened and lead as Jesus led. The cross, she was reminded, which is at the heart of all ministry, represents victory over suffering and death.
The parish celebrated with great dignity and panache. The Sacred Heart parish church was full to capacity as the opening hymn was sung in fulsome voice. Mandy Scanlon chanted the karanga and called Cushla into the church, just as, the previous week, she had farewelled Fr David Gruschow. Her call reached the depths of the heart as her voice rang out over the full volume of the packed singing church.
The Samoan community solemnly processed in with the lectionary while the congregation sang. Ulus and flowers were placed around the lectern.
The offertory procession which was led by the Tokelauans was reflective and graceful. In a special tribute to Cushla the paddle dance was led by the women. The Tokelauans then decked Archbishop John, Msgr Charles, and Cushla and her husband, Gary, with colourful ulus. By this time the sanctuary was awash with flowers.
In the knowledge that the Spirit God was empowering the parish of Petone with something new, creative and challenging, the archbishop warmly congratulated Cushla to appreciative applause.
Cushla is the first of several Launch Out graduates who will be appointed to pastoral areas in the next few years. Let us thank God that so many generous faith-filled people have been prepared to hear the invitation of the Church and form themselves in the Launch Out Formation Programme for this vital ministry.
Later the same day, a similar gathering in San Antonio parish church, Eastbourne, saw Cushla and Msgr Charles installed together as joint leaders of the new pastoral area.
Archbishop John similarly addressed the congregation of Eastbourne parish with representatives from Launch Out, Archdiocesan Pastoral Services and Petone parish.
He stressed the collaborative nature of the new ministry and that Cushla and Charles would work together to bring about the transformation that will see the archdiocese moving into an era of much closer lay involvement in pastoral work.
After the morning service, Archbishop John said he endorsed Cushla’s appointment wholeheartedly as lay pastoral leader in Petone and Eastbourne parishes.