Palmerston North Diocese
More than 1000 North Taranaki Catholics met in the province’s cavernous sports stadium on a wet and wintry Sunday morning on 30 June to celebrate the first regional Mass in 13 years.
Bishop Charles Drennan called for the Mass to give people from North Taranaki the opportunity to celebrate the Year of Faith. The primary focus of the Mass was of thanksgiving, says Fr Craig Butler of New Plymouth’s St Joseph’s Parish.
‘The Mass was a way for us to express our thanks for many things; from those who raise families, to those who help people in our community, to those that educate our children, to those that care for people outside our community.’ It was a chance to recognise the contribution of the Catholic community to the wider community.
The Mass also celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation. Bishop Charles confirmed 22 young people from the region during the ceremony which added a special dimension to the occasion.
The Confirmation candidates, the young leaders and the school children brought a sense of youthfulness to the Mass while the gathering of the wider Catholic community meant there was a great diversity of cultures and talents, said Fr Craig. This was expressed in both the languages used during Mass (the prayers of the faithful were said in six different languages) and the variety of traditional and modern music performed. Six women from the local Kiribati community performed a moving dance honouring the Word of God.
The preparation was huge and people from all parts of the region came together to create a liturgy which was both moving and celebratory. ‘This resulted in a fantastic atmosphere,’ said Fr Craig.
Another highlight of the Mass was the number of people who stayed afterwards for the shared lunch and the willingness of the many school students to help set up and clean up afterwards.
Fr Craig said the last time the TSB stadium was used in this way was to celebrate the Millennium Mass in 2000, so seeing the basketball courts become a sacred space was a wonderful experience for all present, including the stadium’s staff who were extremely helpful and appeared touched by being involved.