Advent and Christmas
Advent, from Latin ‘adventus’ meaning ‘coming’, is the Church’s four-week liturgical period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas – the feast of the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Around the world it is a time of family, prayer, remembering and giving. Leaders from various Church-related organisations in Wellington and Palmerston North dioceses share messages.
Fr Tom Lawn, parish priest St Joseph’s Hawera and Sacred Heart, Manaia
Christmas, the beautiful yet poignant time in the life of the parish.
Christmas is beautiful because hearts are stirred by the mystery of the Son of God becoming human: people will respond to that inner movement by gathering for the healing sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick and Aged and Reconciliation; people will support each other in family and friendship and make an effort to participate in Christmas Mass saying thanks for life and love, saying thanks for the God who knows and understands us and still loves and cares for us.
Poignant because some families will gather without loved ones for the first time; at writing this our Parish has had 25 funerals, so 25 families are with very mixed hearts. Some of our couples are no longer couples – marriages and relationships have ended. Christmas emphasises their aloneness, mothers and fathers and grandparents trying to have time with their children.
At the same time, it is wonderful to see people and families new to the community celebrating this heart warming festival with us, to see our families with their baptised babies and young people, to notice the First Communicants and the recently Confirmed participating, to see the people who have come home to their Church during the year.
It is a great time to be grateful. It is a great time to be joyful. It is a great time to be sad. God’s and Mary’s Son walks with us and we try to walk with him. Birth, growth, suffering, love, healing, death and resurrection – life is unfolding, it is an amazing gift.
Have a happy and holy Christmas.
Graeme Munford, Director, ACROSS Te Kotahitanga O Te Wairua, Palmerston North
This year ACROSS in Palmerston North celebrated its 25th anniversary. Our original trust deed stated as an objective: the relief of poverty and disadvantage, and spoke of the Catholic and Anglican Churches’ caring traditions. We are especially reminded of that at this time of year.
The mission of our Churches is seamless; the opportunity to do right by people is all of our responsibility.
Expressions of social need in our community have changed markedly over the 25 years of ACROSS’ existence. In the last year, Child Youth and Family dealt with over 150,000 reports of child abuse and neglect. Of these, over 60,000 require further follow up, and over 125,000 cases involve emotional abuse and inadequate parenting support. A recent UNICEF report on child poverty in New Zealand estimated around 305,000 (28 per cent) of children are living in poverty, the impacts of which are felt in both the short and long term.
Caritas’ theme for 2015 Social Justice Week drew together many issues around family poverty, including challenges faced by those on low incomes, in poor housing or dealing with social isolation. People in such circumstances lose the opportunity to participate fully in society. We see the negative impact on children. This last year we’ve had over 400 referrals to ACROSS.
ACROSS continues to provide a range of programmes and services for children, parenting education, and counselling services. We have partnered with churches to provide those services, stay connected and provide a voice for the most disadvantaged groups in our community. We are exploring the idea of a city mission for Palmerston North.
We continue to see evidence that small changes in individuals can lead to bigger changes within families and even more positive social change in our community. We really can see social change and doing good by people starts with us. We are called to be compassionate.
‘…the fruit of faith is love…the fruit of love is service…’
We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless
The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty
We must start on our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty (Mother Teresa)
We remember in our thoughts, actions and prayers at Christmas time, especially all those less fortunate than ourselves.
Jenny Gordon, Vicar for Education, Archdiocese of Wellington
Abundant Christmas blessings, shared with heartfelt gratitude for all involved in Catholic education. You give so generously and with such passion and commitment to enable each and every student to encounter our Living God; to grow in knowledge and form an intimate and lasting relationship with Jesus.
As we rush through the demands of this season, let us stop and embrace ‘the real reason for the season’. Emmanuel, God with us. Let us welcome him with humility, discerning hearts and gratefulness, sharing the gifts and blessings given to us and make a better world for all.
May this beauty of true peace, hope and joy be yours this Christmas.
Arohanui and Shalom.
Henare Walmsley, Marguerite Osbourne, Pa Gerard Burns, Te Kahu o te Rangi
Archdiocese Maori Pastoral Care
‘Tihei Mauri Ora I te Tai ao, I te Whai ao, I te Ao marama. He tohu rangi, he tohu matua, he tohu ki ahau nei, Tihei Mauri Ora.’
‘Life begins from night, then dawn, then day. A sign of heaven, of parent, a sign to me. The breath of Life.’
Like the birth of a child, Christmas is a tohu or sign of new life and regeneration. A birth in a family is celebrated by the whole community thus the importance of whanau, hapu or clan is paramount to the survival of the group both economically and culturally. While Pope Francis brings forth the ambitions of Ladauto Si’ it should be centred around the family unit and the importance of people within the community. This is the first step to improving society and the environment in which we live. From Te Kahu o te Rangi Māori Pastoral Care team we wish you a happy and safe Christmas remembering that the first gift of Christmas was that of the child Jesus.
Mā te Atua koutou e manaaki, e tiaki hoki me tō whanau anō.
John Kennedy-Good, Wellington Area President, St Vincent de Paul Society
‘Joy to the World! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room…’
How well we know this proclamation of joy as we celebrate Christmas with carols. The miracle of any birth is joyous and especially the celebration of Christ’s birth over 2000 years ago.
To celebrate with joy we need to engage and connect with others. It is no fun celebrating alone. As Vincentians we in Wellington will be making every effort to make Christmas a joyful occasion for those we visit. Hospitality is part of any celebration and we will be delivering food parcels with a Christmas theme to them, and Christmas presents for children. Where ever we perceive a need we respond – especially so at Christmas when loneliness and deprivation may be sharper and more painful.
Pope Francis tells us in drawing near to others, opening ourselves to their experiences and seeking their welfare, ‘our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and the knowledge of God…This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts20:35).’ (Evangelii Gaudium)
This Christmas, the call by Cardinal John Dew to develop a collaborative response in welcoming refugees will resonate as we reflect that Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus became refugees. The imminent arrival of 85 Syrian refugees in Wellington will provide a further opportunity for Vincentians and parishes to open their hearts, connect with and support those in need and to do so with joy.
Warm greetings and blessings for the Christmas season.
Challenge 2000 is a Youth Development and Family Agency that began in the Johnsonville Catholic Parish in 1988, as a small seed planted in local soil to bring about the reign of God.
We wanted to offer opportunities that enabled love, wellbeing, justice and hope to grow in our people, communities, church, city and country. A big dream – hence the name Challenge!
In 2015 growth has continued. We are fortunate to have a wonderful large whanau of staff and board members, volunteers, financial supporters, professionals and religious orders who work generously and hard to support to improve our society – person by person – family by family.
Our work is rooted in the gospel call to unconditional love. The fruit is the success of disadvantaged young people, the transformation of struggling families, the commitment of young adults to serve and sacrifice, the holiday programmes that bring laughter and broaden horizons, the retreats and formation programmes that enable young Catholics to deepen their faith as well as many other different types of programmes.
They are all ‘Christmas programmes’ year round. Programmes which say in words and deeds that love came and dwells in us and among us. That Love makes all things possible. That Love changes everything and everyone. That Love works.
This Christmas let’s challenge ourselves and others to let Love in and let Love out.
Jesus would be pretty pleased about that – which was why he came.
Lesley Hooper, Director, CSS, Wellington
As we prepare for Christmas let’s think of others in our community to make this a time of celebration – with a smile, a few words of welcome, a gift for someone.
Pope Francis has recently called Christmas a charade as the ‘world continues to wage war’. It’s a sad reflection on this festive season. ‘There will be lights, there will parties, bright trees and Nativity scenes. ’ For many in New Zealand Christmas will not festive, with no money for a party or special gifts for family members. Some will be alone and, for others, violence will shatter lives.
We think of these people. On behalf of everyone Catholic Social Services we wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.
Sue Seconi, Wanganui
Getting Ready for Advent
Fr Brian Carmine, parish priest Wanganui, has written and produced booklet called Advent Reflections 2015. The days of Advent are presented in a way that enables anyone to discover God’s presence in the little things in their lives. The reflections each enmesh a life experience with the scripture of the day.
Over 400 copies of the booklet were distributed free at Masses on the Feast of Christ the King, Sunday 22 November, and the reflections are on Palmerston North (pn.catholic.org.nz) and Wanganui (www.catholicparishwanganui.org.nz) parish websites.
Amanda Calder, Chairperson, and Philippa Meachen, Trustee, Refugee Family Reunification Trust
This will be the first Christmas in Wellington for 20 refugee families. After years apart, they have been reunited, against the odds, with other family members who have made their home here. Many have survived tragedy, horrific losses and suffering beyond comprehension.
As Trustees of the Refugee Family Reunification Trust, we are privileged to know something of the stories of people the Trust supports – we can only admire their spirit and resilience. We see the anguish and pain of separation, and the joy of family reunification. As one refugee told us, ‘It is a miracle to see my mother and sisters again after 18 years – we can’t explain the joy we now have. We are so happy and excited to be reunited once again as a family. My mother and sisters are looking forward to living without fear, and to continuing their education. The Trust took care of our cause as your own. Your help will change my life and the life of my family’.
Now, as they settle into a new and safe country, there are challenges ahead. New Zealand is a long way from home with a very different culture. Add to this, language barriers, homesickness, grief, anxiety for family and friends left behind, financial challenges, and sometimes isolation and loneliness.
As the world’s refugee crisis deepens and refugee numbers increase, we can all do something to help a refugee in our neighbourhood. What does a true welcome look like? Refugees arriving in Wellington need a house to rent, a job, a friendly neighbour.
This Christmas, and over the coming year, we can look for opportunities to deepen our welcome and find truly meaningful ways to help: consider a refugee family as tenants for your rental property; offer a refugee a job; become a home tutor; invite a refugee family to a neighbourhood barbeque; become a volunteer support person; donate money to the Refugee Family Reunification Trust.
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s welcome refugees to Wellington with open arms and generous hearts, and go out of our way to make every refugee in our community feel valued and respected
Mika Teofilom Samoan Chaplaincy
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you All
It appears the Christmas atmosphere and spirit are already approaching. People are beginning to make plans as to where and how to spend and celebrate Christmas and New Year. Some would prefer to travel; others would stay home to spend quality time with family members.
It is inherent to Christmas a high element of joy and happiness – indeed it should be. Why? Because it is the greatest and wonderfully marvellous event in human history, namely the Son of God became Man like us in everything except sin – for the sole purpose: our salvation and life everlasting. Hence it is an event for rejoicing, gladness and celebration! Yes the Son of God was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary (Creed). How marvellous this is for the Son of God to become like you and me!! So how can you and I become like him? Can we imitate him and in what way?
One of the characteristics for birthdays / Christmas is to exchange or give presents. If the Son of God has given us so much and Himself, what is your gift to Him, to his mother Mary and father Joseph?
Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year
Ia Manuia le Kilisimasi ma le Tausaga Fou iā te outou uma.
A o tau mou atu le malulū ae fa’afeiloa’i i tatou e le taumafanafana, ua amata ona va’aia foliga o le vevesi masani ma le agaga o le Kilisimasi ua latalata mai. O le taimi fo’i o fuafuaga mamao a tagata mo faiga malologa fa’apea ni faigamalaga atu i isi atunu’u e asiasi i aiga ma uō. Mo nisi o le a tumau pea i’inei e fa’atasi ai ma fanau ma aiga fo’i i Ueligitone.
O le Kilisimasi o se vaitau e tulimata’i i tausaga uma mo faigamalologa mai i galuega ma a’oa’oga a fanau. O se taimi fo’i e masani ona va’ava’ai i ai mo faiga meaalofa e ofo atu ai le agaga o le fiafia, le olioli ma le alofa. Ae manatua ai fo’i le fanau mai o le pepe fou, o le afio mai lea o le Ali’i i le natura fa’aletagata ina ia fa’ataunu’u folafolaga mo lo tatou fa’aolataga. I lenei Kilisimasi a o tatou patipatia le afio mai o Keriso, se’i o tatou manatua aiga e lē o maua nei fiafiaga ma fa’amanuiaga ua tatou maua. Tatalo ina avea lenei Kilisimasi o le fa’ailoga o Iesu o le malamalama o le lalolagi.
Ia maua e outou uma ma outou aiga fa’amanuiaga o le Atevetu ma le Kilisimasi ma ia avea o ni taimi o le fiafia ma le filemū.
Alofa’aga, Chaplaincy Samoa
Sr Margaret Anne Mills DOLC, Sisters of Compassion
Let us be always thankful when we share time with family and friends during the Christmas season. Let us be mindful of the many people who are suffering from loneliness, insecurity, grief and violence. During WW1 Suzanne Aubert was in Rome; she was homesick and alone, she knew what it was to be turned away from doors after requesting accommodation. Writing home gave her a link and in 1915 she wrote to the novices. I quote just a little:
What can we read in the Crib?
The hardness of heart, even the cruelty of the people who refused a shelter to the Holy Family … they came to their own tribe, to the royal city of their ancestors David, where they had, relatives and acquaintances who ignored them and left them out on a cold winter night.
[Imagine] the grief of Saint Joseph in having to take his Blessed Spouse to a stable to share it with an ox and an ass … and to expect there at any moment the birth of her Divine Son. Letter to the Novices.
Thank you to all who support the Sisters of Compassion so that others can enjoy shelter and a hot meal.
God Bless you.
Nick Wilson, TCI, Palmerston North Diocese
God’s not dead! He is surely alive!
I was listening to this popular song by the Christian group ‘The Newsboys’ at work this morning. Sometimes my colleagues hear me singing from the TCI office…. The lyrics start:
‘Let love explode and bring hte dead to life
A love so bold to see a revolution somehow’
As we embark on our Advent observance and preparation, these lyrics give me reason to reflect that the infant Jesus is God’s human entry into the World – this bold love explodes in a way that it has never been seen before in history. Through this humble yet profoundly bold entry into the world, our salvation history begins! Do we feel brought to life by the profundity of this explosion of love? If not – time for a check-up from the neck up! Take some time to reflect on this – think about it. What does it actually mean?
‘My God’s not dead. He’s surely alive
He’s living on the inside Roaring like a lion’
The chorus here speaks about Te Aranga – the Resurrection not possible without the birth of Jesus. The Spirit of God is living in each one of us. This is not a latent force – it is a life changer; the great compelling to live the Gospel. The Year of Mercy is underway so let the Lion (of Judah) out! This Christmas, roll up your sleeves, and declare by your corporal and spiritual works of mercy, the story of a baby being born in an animal house, laid in something animals ate from, and knew what is was to be a refugee is not just a story, but the evidence of your relationship with the Living God!