The four parishes of the Southern Hutt Valley have embraced Archbishop John’s call to become ‘One Parish – Four Churches’.
Over 200 parishioners from four parishes – Sacred Heart, Petone, San Antonio, Eastbourne, Our Lady of the Rosary, Waiwhetu and St Patrick’s, Wainuiomata – came together to reflect and to determine a common vision for their new parish.
Meeting facilitator Fr Bernard Espiritu SVD, National Director Missionz (Pontifical Mission Societies in New Zealand) encouraged people to form small discussion groups to discuss parish hopes and concerns. The groups explored levels of understanding about the four amalgamating parishes and a long-term vision.
Fr Bernard also discussed Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel, and challenged people to ‘dream of a community of communities – externally focussed but keeping individual identities and sharing with joy’.
Pope Francis calls people to express the joy of the gospel and not live lives like ‘a Lent with no Easter’, he said. ‘The amalgamation of parishes should be seen as a time of joy, an opportunity for renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.’
In Pope Francis we’ve witnessed a renewed challenge to reach out to the margins, the frontiers, the edges of society. Therefore, in the context of ‘One Parish – Four Churches’, we are encouraged not only to look inwards to one parish to tie all four communities together, but to be externally focussed.
We are encouraged to be at the service of the wider community in our local area and to people who are alienated from the Church or who have drifted away.
Our new parish community is clearly called to be outward looking, a source of support and a witness of love, hope and joy for all those who struggle with life.
Pope Francis’s dream of a ‘missionary option’ is especially relevant to the amalgamation of parishes.
The challenge is to be open to a renewal of structures, making ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, and inspiring in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth.
After the meeting, the members of the four communities did indeed go forth with great hope and joy for the future of their new parish.
Gerard McKee is the Chairperson of the Hutt Valley Pastoral Area Council.