New fields for Caritas director

WelCom November 2021 After 10 years at the helm of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Julianne Hickey is leaving her role as Director of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ agency for…

New fields for Caritas director Archdiocese of Wellington
Julianne Hickey during a visit to Rarotonga this year. Photo: Supplied

WelCom November 2021

After 10 years at the helm of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Julianne Hickey is leaving her role as Director of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ agency for justice, peace and development. Since joining the agency in 2012, Mrs Hickey has led a team of some 20 people working on behalf of the bishops for ‘a world free of poverty and injustice through community development, advocacy, education, and emergency relief’.

‘It is time for a refreshment in the leadership and for someone to bring a new perspective and new energy to the role,’ says Mrs Hickey.

Reflecting on her time at Caritas there are many highlights, but it is always about the people and the communities, she says. ‘Whether the remote communities of Papua New Guinea, or our Pacific Island neighbours, it has been wonderful to work with our sisters and brothers in the region and around the world. And I have loved getting to know Catholic communities across Aotearoa New Zealand through our schools and parishes. 

‘It has been wonderful for my own personal journey as well. My understanding of te ao Māori has grown significantly, particularly through our visits to Māori Katorika in Panguru – a community in the northern Hokianga harbour, Hiruhārama–Jerusalem on the Whanganui River, and at Kaikōura. It’s been a real privilege to connect and get to know these communities and I’ve been enriched by this.’

In 2017, Caritas being invited by the Parihaka community to witness the Crown formally apologise for the Government invasion of the pacifist settlement at Parihaka in 1881, was a phenomenal experience Mrs Hickey says.

Under her leadership, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has become a significant voice on care for creation and the need for action to address climate change. She says that producing the annual Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania Report over the last eight years and hearing the voices of community leaders from Pacific Island nations in inspiring discussions has been another high point.

Mrs Hickey met Pope Francis in 2018 and 2019 while in Rome for the Council meeting of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), and the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis. The work of Caritas has been inspired and challenged by the encyclicals and writings of Pope Francis, ‘particularly Laudato si’ and Fratelli Tutti – to hear the cry of the earth, and the cry of the poor’, she says.

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21), as one the international Caritas delegates, Mrs Hickey presented key findings and recommendations from Caritas’ 2015 State of the Environment report. In 2017, she spoke to a UN gathering in New York about deep-sea mining undermining the ability to achieve UN sustainable development goals.

These achievements have not been mine alone Mrs Hickey says. ‘What we have been able to achieve as the Caritas team has been together with the support of the Catholic community throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

‘Looking ahead, with my three children still at school, our family will be in Wellington for the next few years. In the new year, I will be looking for a role in an area that makes a difference to communities, perhaps in an area like health or justice. 

‘I hope the Caritas Board will find a wonderful person who will love leading Caritas as much as I have and can contribute to our global and regional connections and continue our work of justice and peace.’