A view of Maori apostolate in Palmerston North

Palmerston North Rex Begley9 July 2007 Maori Apostolate in the Palmerston North Diocese continues to be a work in progress, building on foundations from the past and developing new initiatives….

Palmerston North

Rex Begley
9 July 2007

Maori Apostolate in the Palmerston North Diocese continues to be a work in progress, building on foundations from the past and developing new initiatives.

For many Catholic Maori the Hui Aranga each Easter continues to be a significant focal point. This goes back to the early days of the Marist Fathers’ mission among Catholic Maori people.

A more recent development has been the quarterly gatherings of Waka Aroha. These weekend gatherings, initiated by Pa Hemi Hikiera have, among other things, provided training and commissioning of Maori catechists.

Since the appointment of Danny Karatea Goddard as Bishop’s Assistant for Maori Apostolate in the diocese a series of Kura Katakita, aimed specifically at the formation of Maori catechists, have been held. This is important as increasingly Maori laymen and women are being called on to exercise leadership roles in such gatherings as tangihanga and unveiling ceremonies. They form a growing group of pastoral and liturgical leaders.

At the same time the formation in Catholic faith and practices that goes on within the school communities of Hato Hohepa and Hato Paora colleges cannot be underestimated.

The people of the diocese are well represented nationally with Danny Karatea Goddard, Henare Ngaia and John Haami attending the meetings of Te Runanga o Te Hahi Katorika. They themselves have made significant contributions to the life and work of this national body and they express their appreciation for the recent involvement of Bishop Barry Jones.

Within the diocese the Maori Apostolate Board, established by Bishop Peter Cullinane and currently chaired by Mr Tom Paku, has provided good communication between the bishop and the Maori people of the diocese. From this has sprung the Maori Apostolate Forum, a much larger group giving the bishop wider access and gathering together more Catholic Maori to hear the bishop’s thoughts and share their own insights. One such gathering of the Forum, in March, gave all 46 who attended a real sense of unity, mission and enthusiasm.

Catholic faith experience for most people continues to be within the context of such gatherings as:

  • Baptisms, often 10 or more at a time.
  • Monthly masses, either on our marae or with our Eucharistic communities within our parishes.
  • Tangihanga
  • Unveilings
  • Formation experiences in Kura Katakita or Waka Aroha
  • A catechism camp at Ohakune for children preparing for first sacraments.

These are the variety of faith experiences of members of the 20 Catholic Maori Eucharistic Communities from Nga Pekanga, Waitara in the west to Tawhiti a Maru, Wairoa in the east.

Other communities include Hoani Papita in South Taranaki, Hiruharama on the Whanganui River and Pakipaki in Hawke’s Bay. All three have their origins with the Catholic Maori Mission of the Marist Fathers and, in the case of Hiruharama, the Sisters of Compassion.

Here are marae-based communities like Maungarongo at Ohakune, Kaiwhaiki on the Whanganui River, Te Hiri, Kauwhata and Taiuru in the Manawatu and Mahia and Mohaka in Northern Hawke’s Bay. Then there are those with closer links to the parishes like St Thomas More in Napier, Shannon, and the Here Ukarie Tapu gathered around Sister Dorothea at Holy Family parish in Whanganui, also reaching out to Waverley parish.

This is very much ‘a work in progress’ because, in spite of all our ups and downs, we keep hope alive remembering the words of Pope John Paul II when he visited Aotearoa New Zealand over 20 years ago,

The Church here is young—It is as Maori that the Lord calls you; it is as Maori that you belong to the Church, the one body of Christ.

We still long to become a significant presence within that body.

Rex Begley is the bishop’s assistant for Retreat in Daily Life, Social Justice and Maori Apostolate.