The O’Shea experience is a wonderful one – a school campus teeming with exuberant young people from 17 Catholic schools in the two dioceses, committed to their contest and to doing well for their school. The late autumn weather is usually bright and performances are critiqued between events in the warm power of the sun.
This contest is dedicated to the memory of Archbishop Thomas O’Shea who, as a 15-year-old, had left Hawera to become a foundation pupil of St Patrick’s College, Wellington. O’Shea was warmly received by Wellington Catholics on his appointment as coadjutor and, in his early 40s, the New Zealand Tablet commented that it was rare for one so young to assume the duties of his high position ‘in such close and sympathetic touch with the young people of his flock with whom the future of the church is so intimately bound’ (August 21, 1913).
So this annual event is well named. It celebrates the youth of the church and provides a focus for the expression of abundant talent. It also gives a sense, this year through the religious questions, of the church’s history.
The teams of three had to study three documents on Martin Luther and his rebellion against the church’s use of indulgences to raise money and answer questions concerning these. The judges of one section said they were impressed with the overall standard. They also said they thought the questions were difficult and this writer wondered why such a low point in the church’s history was being highlighted. But it helps to be reminded of how far the church has progressed from having to pay for a place in heaven, to the egalitarian and welcoming institution we have today.
In New Zealand at least the church is increasingly present in people’s and students’ lives accepting that the Christian way of life is pursued through a range of social activities, ministering to those in need through Catholic Social Services and the St Vincent de Paul Society and its school presence, the Young Vinnies, as well as questioning injustice through social justice forums in a number of parishes and through Caritas’ submissions on potentially unjust legislation.
The New Zealand Bishops have this month released a statement on work. Titled ‘Working for Life’ it looks at work and life, dignity, the common good, work as gift and lifestyle – ‘it was precisely though the “work of human hands” that Jesus built his own community’.
This is a fine attempt to get alongside people where they are and it would do well as a study document for the next O’Shea Shield religious questions teams.
Last month also saw a national marriage conference bring together a vibrant community of couples committed to the Spirit they find in each other and in working together for marriage in the church.
And though the international church is still dominated by the patriarchy of old, the local church provides ample openings for women to take leadership roles and express their gifts in the service of humanity.
At O’Shea the standard was high with the judges of the junior speech saying that performances of this calibre could be expected from much more senior students.Overall the students provided some highly entertaining and informative theatre. If these are the adults of the church in the coming decades, the leadership is in inspired hands.