WelCom August 2020
Parish Personal to Māori – 21st Birthday
Ngā mihi o te huritau tekau mā tahi! Ki ngā mema o te whānau kua mate, kua haere ki te oranga tonutanga, ki te whare o tō tātou Atua – haere, haere, haere! Ki a koutou, ngā mema o te whānau o te Ngākau Tapu, tū tonu, tū tonu, tū tonu! Haere tonu i te taha o tō tātou Ariki, a Hēhu Karaiti!
Pā Gerard Burns
Twenty-one years! The parish of Te Ngākau Tapu (Sacred Heart) turned 21 in July 2020. A celebration Mass was held with the visit of Cardinal John Dew in the presence of the members of the parish community and visitors. The people rejoiced in the occasion, remembered those gone before them, and entered deeply into the karakia of the Mass and traditional waiata. Cardinal John spoke words of encouragement as we gathered in the aftermath of the time of Covid-19 lockdown.
Despite that time of adversity, the Mass, a hākari and a special 21st cake were organised. The cake was cut and distributed by the tamariki present. As the hall was temporarily unavailable the post-Mass celebration was held through the manaakitanga of Bishop Viard College in their staff room. An appropriate connection since Philippe Viard came to New Zealand in late 1840 and became the first bishop of Wellington.
The conversations around colonisation, what memorial statues mean and changing understandings of history are around us at present. In terms of Catholic history in New Zealand we are reminded that the first priests in New Zealand, although sought by Irish people living here and given the lack of priests in the Western Pacific, were commissioned to work with Māori. Māori were, of course, the majority people in Aotearoa in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s.
This work of the Catholic Church with Māori has had various stages since 1838 through the time of the New Zealand wars, the dispossession of Māori land, the post WW2 urban migration, the Māori Mission and so on. In the late 1990s as fewer personnel were available for work among Māori, Cardinal Williams wished to found a parish for Māori. He based it on a church in Porirua – Te Ngākau Tapu (Sacred Heart) – alongside the Tū Hono Hall.
The parish personal to Māori was founded in 1999. A ‘personal’ parish means one founded for a specific group or need. This could be a parish for university students or for night workers or for a particular language group but it is not geographically limited. Thus any Māori Catholic could belong to it, anywhere in the Archdiocese. The idea was to give Māori an equal footing in the Archdiocese, not just as ‘another’ ethnic or migrant group.
Sacred Heart Church had been built in the early 1900s for the small European settlement of the time that grew at the entrance of the old Porirua psychiatric hospital. It was built on the old main road –pre-motorway days – that led from Wellington through Tawa to Porirua. In the late 1980s the church was moved up the hill adjacent to Bishop Viard College. Tū Hono Hall was built next to it as a home for the cultural club of that name.
And later the parish was established. The church had been one of the two of the old Porirua-Elsdon parish. When that went out of existence the church became available for a new purpose, Te Ngākau Tapu parish. It’s first parish priest was Fr Colin Durning, then recently ordained – at the request of the Māori community – aged 70. He had formerly been a professor of dentistry, then resident dentist at the Porirua psychiatric hospital and very familiar with the church and the community. Fr Colin was not able to join the celebration but enjoys hearing the parish news from where he lives in Tītahi Bay.