The 70th anniversary of the heroic death of New Zealand Columban missionary Francis Vernon Douglas occurs in late July and his former parish, Johnsonville, is planning to celebrate the occasion in June with a series of discussions on his life and mission.
The Columban Mission Society is also marking the occasion with an address from mission specialist Fr Noel Connolly on 21 July, at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
A carved stone evoking the story of Fr Vernon Douglas will feature in the celebrations in Johnsonville, tour the region to honour those who came to serve this land and people in mission service, and those who now serve with distinction in overseas situations.
Finally, the artwork will be presented to Archbishop John Dew for installation in Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Columban provincial in New Zealand Fr Michael Gormly suggests the prime aim of the Year of Faith is to promote a renewed sense of mission.
‘It is a time to affirm that dioceses, parishes and schools are at their best when they run with a spirit of gospel mission. The 175 year history of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand bears this out.
‘Pope Francis is already speaking of mission in fresh, positive and encouraging terms. He suggests the church could well emerge from inward distractions and move out to the periphery, not only in a geographic sense, but across what he calls “existential edges”.’
Fr Gormly says the Year of Faith encourages the Catholic community to re-think the purpose of mission.
Fr Noel Connolly will speak on the theme: ‘What has been learned from missionary experience since the Second Vatican Council?’.