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Archbishop John addresses the Samoan community

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Archbishop John Dew
4 April 2011

This is an address from Archbishop John Dew to the Samoan Community, all members of which he invited to the cathedral on February 12 to explain finally the discussions that have been taking place with catechists about the appointment of a lay pastoral leader to the Samoan chaplaincy which has caused dissension and pain.

After his welcome, Archbishop John spoke of the authority vested in him as archbishop, the symbols of this in the cathedra or throne and in the cathedral itself, and of the lineage from the first bishop of Wellington, Archbishop Philippe Viard.
‘He is our link with the universal church and through a long line of bishops back to the service of the apostles in the early church. This is a strength of our church to have lived through 2000 years in almost every country and every culture. In the 2000 years there have been divisions and disagreements, the church has grown through them and survived – with the help of the Holy Spirit this will come right, too.

For that to happen each of us has to listen carefully in prayer for the voice of God. ‘I have been given the responsibility of leading this archdiocese. All I ask of you is to trust me and believe me when I say that I want the best for all people in the Archdiocese of Wellington.

Please understand that I and my closest advisors have the bigger picture of the archdiocese and the needs of all the parishes and chaplaincies at heart. This is why Fr Maleko, as a priest ordained for the archdiocese, has been appointed to a parish. Since speaking at the Ioane Vito Centre on November 19, I have spoken with each catechist couple and many others from the Samoan community. All have said that I am the only one who can fix this problem. They have said:
“You call us all together and tell us what you want, and we will do it.” I have called you here today to tell you what is to be done.’

Archbishop John stressed that misinformation in the community in the past several months was to stop. He would be conveying facts rather than making assumptions.

The situation is this: Mikaele Teofilo has been appointed lay pastoral leader of the chaplaincy. Obviously he does not, and cannot, do the work of a priest. He organises, facilitates and helps coordinate the activities within the chaplaincy. This includes the Samoan Mass schedule.

On May 21, 2010, I said to the catechists and the leaders of the Aulotu that Mika would work with and coordinate the Sunday School programme and the youth activities. He will not take over but will assist and be able to point out where those particular activities can fit in with and be part of the archdiocese.

Mika works out of the Catholic Centre which means that he is in touch with all the other departments in the centre, (Archdiocesan Pastoral Services, the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa New Zealand (CIANZ), Youth Office, Marriage Tribunal) therefore he can help you to be more closely connected to the archdiocese. You are all part of the archdiocese. I want ALL people in the diocese to have access to all those organisations and departments so that your faith can be strengthened.

From May 21, 2010, a number of aulotus have not had anything to do with the chaplaincy. However, the work of the matagaluega has continued. The fact that some of you chose [to] cut yourselves off from it was your decision, not mine. I want you all to work together and to be as one matagaluega.

‘No Catholic organisation can exist in any diocese without reference to the bishop and without the bishop’s approval. This includes aulotus and their activities: devotions, Third Order, Legion of Mary, Sagata Ana, Children of Mary, Divine Mercy, etc. That is not just John Dew’s idea; it is the law of the church.’

Archbishop John invited catechists and leaders to a meeting on May 26 to discuss a chaplaincy team which would include the Sunday school (Aoga Aso Sa) leader and youth (Autalavou) leader, head catechist and the executive officers of the matagaluega.
I received an email the day before the scheduled meeting which said:
I wish to advise your Grace on behalf of the Matagaluega O Ueligitone (Samoan Chaplaincy, Wellington) that the matagaluega had its meeting at the Ioane Vito Centre in Newtown last night and it unanimously decided to reject your plans to meet on Wednesday with representatives of the Matagaluega Samoa. We wish to inform you that no one will be attending that meeting.

Many have said that this decision was not unanimous. Archbishop John said the receipt of this email and the fact that the senders did not attend Mika’s commissioning showed that they were rejecting his authority. Some began to use the mass as a protest, deciding not to have Masses and telling Cardinal Williams and other priests that there would not be a Samoan Mass.

The Mass is at the very heart of our Catholic faith. No one has the right to stop a Sunday Mass in any parish. A priest or lay pastoral leader needs the bishop’s permission to do so. It is the duty of the catechist to teach and explain to people that cancelling Masses is not acceptable.

Another meeting Archbishop John called in the cathedral on December 19 was also postponed.

Some aulotus have become bitterly divided, he said, because some people decided to stay with the chaplaincy while others rejected Mika’s appointment and chose not to come to his commissioning; some catechists did not come to the regular First Friday training; some did not come to youth and Sunday School meetings and did not attend the Chaplaincy Mass on December 5.

The message was clear: they rejected the chaplaincy and removed themselves from it. However, others who wanted to move on, set up an executive for the chaplaincy. ‘I do not want to see any of those people threatened, put down, ridiculed or argued with. This is where you all need to work together, pray genuinely and reflect deeply about what it means to be gospel people.

As St Paul says: ‘I do appeal to you, brothers and sisters, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice’ (1Cor 1:10).

There are times when people need to be able to say sorry, to apologise, to swallow their pride and, for the sake of the community, make a new start. This is one of those times. It is a scandal for communities to be disagreeing and causing disunity in the Body of Christ. All in the Samoan community need to return to the chaplaincy and work together to make it better.

Before I went on sabbatical last year, I instructed Mika to engage and continue the work with the people and catechists who are loyal and supportive.

The constitution
On January 28 I called a meeting of the catechists; at this meeting I spoke about many areas of concern; one is that many parts of the constitution have not been followed; For example: The process of the appointment of catechists has not been followed, neither in some cases has the length of the appointment. The length of tenure of some office bearers in the aulotu has not always been followed The actual work of the catechists – one catechist showed me a statement he had written that said, ‘Anything to do with the aulotu has to go through the catechist not the president’.

This is totally wrong. The constitution is very clear that the role of the catechist is spiritual and pastoral. This does not mean that everything has to go through the catechist. ‘The catechist’s responsibilities are pastoral and spiritual, and are not administrative.’ (6.1. (p37) and ‘Their role is spiritual and pastoral, not administrative and financial.’ 11.6 (p 11) The Handbook for Catechists says: (8.1, p40): ‘All that is set down in this handbook is to remain in force until amended by the archbishop.’ And again, ‘The archbishop will review the contents of this handbook from time to time and, if changes are made, new editions of the handbook will be printed and circulated to all catechists.’ (8.2, p40).18.

The constitution will be reviewed because:
•Systems put in place to ensure that it is followed;
• Many catechists asked for further formation in order to do their job well;
• There is still misinformation being spread about Mika’s role;
• Some catechists misunderstand their roles, responsibilities and rights;
• Because of the way I, some parish priests and lay pastoral leaders have been offended and spoken to; and
• My and their authority has not been recognised.

Archbishop John said he would invite Lafaele Mapusua and Lolesio Risati to be part of a constitutional review group as well as Kalolo Perez and Paulo Paulo. Others including priests and religious and those with particular expertise would also be included.

Placed on leave
At the January 28 meeting I put 10 catechist couples who have resisted my changes on indefinite leave. This leave took effect immediately … to give time to pray and reflect and to be renewed for ministry and to sort out the matters of the constitution.

While on leave they do not have any duties as catechists; I have asked them not to wear their catechists’ robes. This will help them in their role as catechists and will, in turn, of course, help your communities to be places of prayer and welcome, of healing, hospitality, helping and holiness.

Sadly, I have been told this week by some of our parish priests that some catechists have told them that they are ignoring my directions and are just going to go ahead, because their communities have told them that they want them. I am saying once again, as clearly as I can: communities do not appoint catechists, just as communities do not appoint parish priests or lay pastoral leaders; that is the responsibility of the bishop of the diocese. If catechists do ignore the directions they have been given, I will have no option but to dismiss them completely.

What do I want?
Mika was officially installed as the lay pastoral leader in this cathedral on July 11. I expect you to accept and respect this appointment and to cooperate with him in the responsibilities he has been given. The executive of the chaplaincy which has been working for the last seven months is to remain in place. Once the review of the constitution is completed you will be asked to elect a new president and committee for the matagaluega and new office bearers for each of the aulotus. Once the constitution is reviewed, rules regarding the election of office bearers of the aulotus and the executive of the matagaluega will be strictly adhered to.

The current aulotu structures in Naenae and Newtown are to remain in place. Those that walked away are urged to come back to what is in place. All aulotus are to contact Mika to arrange for masses. Mika will consult with parish priests, lay pastoral leaders and the leadership of the aulotu.

In the meantime, I can only appeal to you to think carefully about what it means to be Catholic. I ask you to pray and reflect together so that you can be one people and one with the archdiocese you belong to. We all need to think about the fact that the Church’s task is to help others come into communion with God. Every one of us will one day stand before God and give an account of our behaviour.

I have said countless times that you, as Samoans, are able to enrich this church of Wellington with your faith culture and traditions, your singing and dancing and your warm hospitality. We are a church called to be one. That was Jesus’ prayer, ‘Father, may they all be one.’ Our unity is shaped and nurtured by four elements:
• Our shared faith in the Risen Lord,
• Our shared sense of belonging to the church, to a diocese and to a local community,
• Our shared experience of prayer, especially the Eucharist, and
• Our shared commitment to build God’s Kingdom and contribute to the common good in society today.

The unity for which Jesus lived and died is not just an idea. Unity comes from hard work, from not making judgements about others, from choosing others before ourselves – putting others first, being ready to forgive, seeking to be reconciled with others rather than nursing hurt pride. Unity comes when we forget ourselves and put Christ and others first.
I would also like to clarify some misunderstandings that have already surfaced about the offer of Bishop Alapati to send two priests from Samoa to serve in the Archdiocese of Wellington. One of these priests will be appointed for regular ministry within that parish and pastoral area. He may be able to help with some Samoan Masses.

The second priest will be appointed to sacramental ministry within the chaplaincy team. He will not replace Mika Teofilo as lay pastoral leader. As with all archdiocesan priests, they will be accountable to me as bishop.

It may be several months before these priests arrive in New Zealand. I ask you to cooperate with Mika. It is spelt out in the constitution that ‘every Catholic Samoan is first and foremost a member of a parish’ (6.3). Therefore the Masses are parish Masses, the parish priest or lay pastoral leader is to know what arrangements are being made for Samoan language Masses in the parish. Mika, at my request, will inform the parish priest or lay pastoral leader of the Mass times.

As St Paul said, ‘What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self control.’

For a Samoan translation of this address click here.