Archbishop John Dew
The bishops of Oceania are assembling in Wellington this month, the largest gathering of bishops in New Zealand since the Federation of Bishops Conferences of Oceania’s first meeting in Auckland in 1994.
Pope John Paul II wrote his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania in 2001 specifically for the church in this part of the world under the protection of the Southern Cross.
The Lord has called the Church in Oceania to himself. As always the call involves a sending forth on mission. The purpose of being with Jesus is to go forth from Jesus, in his power and with his grace. Christ is now calling the church to share his mission with new energy and creativity [EIO #3].
Almost three years before Pope John Paul wrote those words, the bishops of Oceania had gathered in Rome in the presence of the now St John Paul II, to participate in the Synod for Oceania which had as its theme: Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking his way, telling his truth, living his life. We were joined by some clergy, religious and laity from the Oceania region. From New Zealand there was Sr Catherine Hannan DOLC, Mrs Ruth Smithies, Mr Manuka Henare, Fr Peter Ewart SM, Fr Henare Tate and Fr Neil Vaney SM. While the bishops came from the four separate bishops’ conferences of Australia, Papua New Guinea-Solomon Islands, CEPAC (the Pacific Islands) and New Zealand, we were also the bishops of the Federation of Bishops Conferences of Oceania.
This was one of my earlier experiences of the Vatican and Rome. It was my first experience of magnificent liturgies in St Peters, in particular those influenced by the cultural expressions of the Pacific Islands. It was the first time I had sat in the same room as the Pope, day after day and met bishops from other continents and heads of dicasteries [departments] of the Roman Curia. It was all very different for me – sometimes bewildering and, at other times, totally fascinating. Overall, for me as a bishop of only three years, it was a time of blessing, learning and grace.
While in Rome in 1998 the bishops took the opportunity for a short meeting of the Federation – short because we were also there for a synod. It had been four years since the Federation had met for the first time in Auckland and we had been meeting every four years in Assembly since Auckland: briefly in Rome, then Rabaul in 2002, Suva in 2006, and then in Sydney in 2010. And now, this month, the Federation of Bishops will assemble in Wellington from the 12 – 16 May.
This will be a significant and a blessed time for the church in New Zealand, and especially for the church in Wellington as we host the bishops of the federation.
Your prayerful support for the success of our assembly will be much appreciated. People are welcome to attend the opening Mass at the cathedral on Monday 12 May at 5:30pm; however, space will be limited. There is a full programme on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with input from some of the bishops and workshops run mostly by lay people from around New Zealand. Members of the assembly will also visit the Home of Compassion Visitor’s Centre and celebrate Mass at the Home of Compassion – an opportunity to spread the story of Suzanne Aubert and her cause for beatification.
We will also celebrate Mass for the nine secondary colleges of the archdiocese at St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie. This will give us the opportunity to recall those words quoted at the beginning of this column, and to stress, as does Ecclesia in Oceania, that ‘young Catholics are called to follow Jesus not just in the future as adults, but now as maturing disciples’ [EIO #44]. We will also pray, ‘May they always be drawn to the overwhelmingly attractive figure of Jesus and stirred by the challenge of the gospel’s sublime ideals’. [EIO #44].
This will be a time for all to be reminded that,
‘The Lord has called the Church in Oceania to himself. As always the call involves a sending forth on mission. The purpose of being with Jesus is to go forth from Jesus in his power and with his grace. Christ is now calling the Church to share his mission with new energy and creativity.’ [EIO #3]
Please pray for the success of this month’s Assembly of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania.