Archbishop John Dew
‘God of mission, you filled the mind and heart of Bishop Pompallier with Apostolic zeal to leave country and family, to bring the Gospel of Christ to Oceania and Aotearoa. Bless our country and our families as we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the first Mass offered on Aotearoa soil. Renew us in faith. Secure our families in respect, love and unity. Fill your people with zeal to live and preach the Gospel in this land with renewed vigour…’
This prayer was prayed at Motuti Marae in the Hokianga on January 13 of this year during the 175th anniversary of the First Mass in New Zealand which Bishop Pompallier celebrated in 1838.
On the evening before the Mass, about 400 people had gathered at Totara Point for Vespers and Benediction.
There were many wonderful moments as we sat outside enjoying the beauty of the Hokianga Harbour, surrounding trees, silence of open space and a warm welcome. Everyone was wondering what it must have been like for Bishop Pompallier all those years ago.
This is why this prayer appealed so much to me ‘you filled the mind and heart of Bishop Pompallier with apostolic zeal’.
I prayed for this same ‘apostolic zeal’ as we enter more deeply into this Year of Faith. As I thought about the outmoded word ‘zeal’, I asked for the gift of eagerness, passion and enthusiasm that we might share the faith God gifted us with through Bishop Pompallier 175 years ago.
A much bigger crowd was welcomed onto Motuti Marae the following morning in readiness for the anniversary Mass.
During the Mass, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Balvo baptised four young children and went on to preach about the ‘new beginnings’ which Bishop Pompallier brought to New Zealand. He linked this with the ‘new beginnings’ of the baptisms and with the ‘new beginnings’ we are all invited to in this Year of Faith.
Again, we prayed, ‘Fill your people with zeal to live and preach the Gospel in this land with renewed vigour…’
Early on the Sunday morning I sat beside the final resting place of the bishop and prayed for all of you in the Archdiocese of Wellington, asking for strength and wisdom for myself saying ‘if Pompallier could be a bishop in those days, with God’s grace I can be a bishop today’.
The large gathering of priests and bishops presented the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Mass.
I guess hundreds of people used this chance to be ‘renewed in faith’. Seeing the way people responded to the offer of the Sacrament of Reconciliation was inspirational.
In this diocese we are giving people the same opportunity on the Wednesday evenings of Lent when every parish church will be open for reconciliation from 7.30 to 8.30pm.
The Council of Priests fully supported this initiative and agreed that I ask every parish to give people the chance to receive God’s loving kindness and mercy.
We decided to use the theme ‘The Door is Open for You’ because we wanted everyone to know, as Bishop Pompallier did, that God is a God of forgiveness. That prayer asked ‘secure our families in respect, love and unity.’ We will be secured in ‘respect, love and unity’ through God’s healing presence in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Bishop Pompallier and his companions opened the doors of Faith to thousands of people.
This Lent please with ‘zeal’ tell others of the chance we have for Reconciliation. Invite others to come too so that all may know our forgiving God and be ‘renewed in faith’.
‘The Door is Open for You’ in all parish churches each Wednesday of Lent from 7.30pm – 8.30pm. The Mass of Chrism for the North Island parishes this year will therefore be celebrated at the cathedral on Tuesday, 26 March at 7.30pm.