WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

WelCom August 2019:

Te Tangohanga o Meri Takakau Tapu

15 August 2019 – 5 Akuhata 2019

Glimpsing the Joy that awaits us through Mary’s Assumption
Mātakitakina te Harikoa e tāria ana mā te Tangohanga o Meri

The Catholic Church in New Zealand has the Assumption of Mary as patron. The first missionary outreach to Oceania was through the Society of Mary (the Marists) so the choice is very appropriate. The first bishop to Aotearoa-New Zealand, Baptiste Pompallier sm, had a special devotion to Mary.

The Dogma of the Assumption was only proclaimed in 1950, but the belief had been part of Catholic tradition for many centuries and the belief is not confined to Roman Catholicism. The Byzantine liturgy (Eastern Orthodox) names 15 August, the Feast of the Dormition – indicating Mary ‘falling asleep’ in death and waking in the arms of her Son.

Pope Pius XII, in the 1950 document formally proclaiming this belief, wrote that Mary ‘when the course of her earthly life was finished was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.’


James Lyons, Priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington

Honouring Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in her ‘Assumption’ affirms our belief that, in death, her body did not decay but was fully united with God, the source of Life. This teaching follows from the great dignity and privilege of Mary as the ‘temple of the living Go’ – chosen to be the mother of the Saviour, the Son of God.

It is also important to affirm that we do not worship Mary. She is a woman, a human person, one of us. Our Catholic tradition strongly supports the practice of praying to Mary, seeking her guidance and help, but that is not worship. Like us, Mary was made in the image and likeness of God, but she is not in herself divine.

This approach reflects our human way of relating to one another.

Friendships work through contact and conversations. Communities are built through social connections, companionship, trust and faithfulness. Our faith would be meaningless if it didn’t relate to our everyday life. Mary helps to keep us anchored in reality; her own life encouraging us along the path of Jesus.

“Mary is especially honoured as ‘Mother’ – in particular, Mother of Mercy and Mother of the Church.”

The various titles given Mary over the centuries endorse both her unique place in humanity and her closeness to God. She is known, for example, as ‘Cause of our Joy’, ‘Seat of Wisdom’, ‘Refuge of Sinners’, ‘Help of Christians’, but is especially honoured as ‘Mother’ – in particular, Mother of Mercy and Mother of the Church.

From very early in the Church’s life, the words of Jesus as he hung on the cross, ‘Son, this is your mother; mother, this is your son’ (John 19:25-29), have been taken to apply to all his followers. Jesus spoke them to John, who then took Mary into his home, but her influence in reconciling and reuniting the disciples and her presence at the Pentecost experience, which marked the formal beginning of the Church, definitely marked her as the gift of Jesus to all of us.

The Feast of the Assumption is the Patronal Feast of the Church in New Zealand and a Holy Day of Obligation. It is also a time when we recall the origins of the Catholic Church here in our country, when Bishop Pompallier, as he celebrated the first Mass on New Zealand soil, dedicated this mission to the Assumption of Mary.

To know, with the confidence that faith allows, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, and our mother, enjoys the fullness of life in God’s presence is both a wonderful consolation and an incentive to continue her work of reconciling and building up the Body of Christ – the People of God.

Our service to one another and our care of the world are the best ways to honour our heavenly mother – just as they are the best ways of honouring our earth parents. Celebrating Mary’s Assumption combines praise and gratitude for the greatness of God’s love and enable us to be filled with joy for what, in Mary, we know awaits us.

Our English use of the word ‘assumption’ most often describes an attitude or action of taking something for granted: I ‘assume’ that you will agree…; I did this on the ‘assumption’ that it would ok…’. This use of the word may well confuse some with regard to Mary’s ‘assumption’, but here its use is similar to what we can experience in a loving relationship. Friends can be ‘assumed’ or ‘lifted up’ into the life of each other. Reference the wonder of marriage where two become one.

Celebrate the Assumption of Mary with great joy and reflect on its relevance to your own life. Stay close to Mary; ask her continued protection for our still young Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and, on a personal level, to pray for us ‘now, and at the hour of our death’.


In his 1980 thesis Bishop PJ Cullinane examined the relationship between the lived experience of the faith and the way in which that faith comes to be perceived and formulated in dogma. As part of this, one of his conclusions was that some Christians believe Mary is assumed into heaven while others do not. He suggests we need to engage in a way of living and sharing our Christian faith that can carry us forward to a fuller measure of common understanding.


Mō Maria – in honour of Mary

Bishop Jean Baptist Pompallier, a pioneer of the Catholic Church in New Zealand, arrived from France to the Hokianga in the Far North in 1838 with a group of Marist priests and brothers. He learned Te Reo Māori on his way to New Zealand and became fluent in the language. Bishop Pompallier celebrated his first Mass at Totara Point on 13 January 1838. He immediately set about establishing Catholic mission stations. With his group of priests and brothers he sailed on the mission schooner Sancta Maria from Hokianga to several stations around New Zealand.

The name Sancta Maria is a Latin title for Mary the Mother of God. It means Holy Mary.

In honour of Mary, Bishop Pompellier wrote the Māori hymn Mō Maria, which has remained one of the most popular hymns in Aotearoa New Zealand today.

Mō Maria

Mō Maria aianei, ō tātou waiata.
Kia kaha rā tātou, kia nui te aroha.
Mō Maria aianei, ō tātou waiata,
Kia kaha rā tātou, kia nui te aroha.

For Mary now, our songs.
Let us be strong, let there be
great love.

Bishop Pompallier became the Vicar Apostolic of New Zealand in 1842. By 1843, he had established mission stations in Hokianga, Kororareka, Mangakahia, Kaipara, Tauranga, Akaroa, Matamata, Opotiki, Maketu, Auckland, Otago, Wellington, Ōtaki, Rotorua, Rangiaowhia and Whakatane.


The Dormition of Blessed Mary

The Dogma of the Assumption was only proclaimed in 1950, but the belief had been part of Catholic tradition for many centuries and the belief is not confined to Roman Catholicism. The Byzantine liturgy (Eastern Orthodox) names 15 August (or 28 August) the Feast of the Dormition – indicating Mary ‘falling asleep’ in death and waking in the arms of her Son.