The Catholic people of Wellington got behind the local pilgrims and the diocese’s overseas guests, turning up in their hundreds to participate in a fun-filled evening at Te Papa Museum the culmination of a week of Days in the Diocese for World Youth Day pilgrims.
From 6.30 on the Thursday evening, July 10, there was a hubbub of excitement in the air, as the pilgrims, families with young children, and people of all ages from a host of parishes, roamed the museum chasing up a list of scavenger hunt items. The hunt, appropriately named 12 Steps to Heaven, sent people on a lively tour of the museum before directing them to different areas for refreshments and fellowship.
‘We had no idea in advance of the numbers who might come, but we’ve been overwhelmed,’ said Louise Kelleher, one of the diocesan organisers.
The week of activities had begun with a welcome at Pipitea Marae followed by a number of other events including ‘Days of Service in the Diocese’ activities. Michael Hallagan, chairman of the Days in the Diocese group, said the pilgrims had met each day for prayer in the cathedral before being sent out. The projects included visiting retirement and rest homes and planting trees in a regional park. ‘Because they were pilgrims, we chose to use public transport to get around.’ He said Te Papa had been chosen as a venue because the organisers wanted ‘culture, informality and a relaxed atmosphere, a real New Zealand experience’.
And clearly for a group of Canadians (readily identifiable due to their distinctive red hockey jerseys) the entire visit had proved just that. They spoke of the generous hospitality and the wonderful welcome they had received. (Fittingly, their diocese had hosted New Zealand pilgrims before WYD in 2002.)
Melanie Macauley and Nicole Stott, from Vancouver, were hosted by the Sisters of Compassion. They had risen early each morning to serve in the Soup Kitchen, a new experience for them. ‘It is nice to be able to give back,’ Nicole said. Melanie, in turn, had been fascinated by the ‘melding of the Catholic Church and Māori culture’ which she had observed.
A group of university students from Poland led by Father Janussz Kopczymski, spoke glowingly of the beauty of the country and, as Ania Przedlacka described it, ‘the nature and the greenness of the place’. The group had travelled through the North Island.
Among the many from around the region enjoying the event were Susan Handisides, a parishioner from St Patrick’s, Paraparaumu, and her two children, Liam, 12, and Briana Bargh, 10. St Patrick’s was sending a number of pilgrims to Sydney. ‘We have come along to support them.’
Archbishop John Dew said the Days in the Diocese had been ‘all we’ve ever hoped for. So many people have been involved and have so generously provided hospitality to all the visitors.’ The events had been a great community building exercise and had brought a lot of people together. ‘It has been a fantastic week,’ he said.
The evening ended with a liturgy led by Archbishop John. It included Prayers of the Faithful in different languages representing some of the cultures going to WYD, a dramatised version of the Word, presented by girls from St Catherine’s College, and a blessing for all the pilgrims.