Several months ago in our prayer group a member gave thanks that our family was prepared to give Karen up to God for her ministry as a lay pastoral leader—until then I hadn’t quite seen it that way.
Karen was called to this journey five years ago with a sense of purpose that has been the basis of her commitment to the Launch Out study and formation programme.
We often joked when overcoming serious challenges in life that God was preparing us for something and those who know Karen well will understand why she has been called to this ministry.
Karen’s installation on 9 December 2007 and the commissioning of the Pastoral Area Team, Frs Geoff Broad and Ray Stachurski with Karen, made official and ritualised the combining of the two parish communities into one pastoral area. It was a truly wonderful ceremony.
From a very unfamiliar pew at the front of the church with our children, Karen’s Mum, Shirley O’Brien, and sister, Josephine, it was reassuring to see so many familiar faces from our St Anne’s community and personal friends who had taken time to come and give their support and prayer.
The liturgy reflected the cultural diversity of these two communities; the Samoan community enthroned the Word which was then proclaimed in Samoan, Italian and English. The Prayers of the Faithful spoken in Italian, Cook Island Māori, Tongan, Hungarian, Dutch, Tagalog and Vietnamese emphasized the evolving riches in our New Zealand community.
Music is a big part of Karen’s life and it was appropriate that there was a variety of music, from the modern chords of our combined music groups and World Youth Day pilgrims singing the WYD anthem, to the harmonies of the Samoan and Italian choirs and the rich voice of Melania Lui cantoring the psalm.
For our family, though, the focus was on Karen’s installation. We knew the prayer and soul-searching that Karen had put herself through before accepting this ministry and the humility and faith with which she took up the role.
To see Karen stand before Archbishop John Dew, head bowed as he placed his hands on her in blessing, was a life-changing moment. I felt a mixture of emotions—pride in how hard she had worked to get to this point, respect that God had called her to do this work and trepidation, knowing that the path ahead would hold rocky ground as well as smooth.
After the commissioning it was a joy to see how many people gathered round in love and support ready to walk the road alongside Karen.
The installation reflected that a community representing many lands celebrating a shared faith in their own tongue and song can be a beacon in a violent and intolerant world, for unity in harmony and hope around the Christian message.
In times of change two groups tend to emerge—those who celebrate the change and those who experience feelings of loss or grief.
The future for our community is many a step from here. Whether we are people who celebrate change or grieve for the old days, I pray that through our love, prayer and support St Anne’s and St Francis de Sales’ light will burn even brighter.