The Samoan community came in droves to Sacred Heart Cathedral on the afternoon of Sunday 20 February to farewell Cardinal Tom Williams and welcome Archbishop John Dew.
Le nuu pele ina e, ole Atua, (Hello, my dear people of God) he said as he began his homily, then confessed that these were the only Samoan words he remembered.
Speaking for himself and Archbishop Dew, who is to take over the administration of the archdiocese next Sunday, Cardinal Williams expressed gratitude and congratulations.
Looking at the way you worship, and hearing you sing, the way you have brought your culture into your worship, was a great inspiration.
The many ili (fans) were working hard against the heat of the day as the cardinal told the packed congregation he had been privileged to work with the Samoan community over 34 years in Samoa, Porirua and as archbishop.
You have made those years wonderful, he said. They have been a great source of grace for me.
The Samoan community was one of the most active in the archdiocese, he said, citing the Aulotus annual report for 2004.
In his homily Cardinal Williams talked of the apostles puzzlement when Jesus spoke about what was to come. Referring to the days Gospel, (Mt 17:1-9) Cardinal Williams said that the transfiguration was to help them understand that death was to be followed by glory, to give the apostles a sense of what they would share if they remained faithful to Jesus message.
Throughout Lent, we are following Jesus footsteps, Cardinal Williams said. But we always need courage, we always need a sense of the coming reign of God.
But it was not enough to look at Jesus and see the glory, he said. We must listen to him.
Jesus speaks to us whenever we hear Gods word proclaimed in the reading of the Gospel, in our prayers, in interraction with our community.
Cardinal Williams gave the community a special commendation for an extremely strong youth ministry.
Evangelisation was an important part of the churchs work. He thanked the chaplaincy team, Frs Maleko, Mauola Leilua, and Sr Pesio, and Fr Petelo Mauga last year, for their dedication.
He also thanked the catechists who, he said, made huge sacrifices to work for the community on top of the other work they did to support their families.
In a reference to the first reading (Gen 12:1-4) in which Abraham left his own country not knowing what he was going to, just doing the word of God, Cardinal Williams said he was reminded of the way the elders of the Samoan community came to New Zealand without knowing what was ahead. You came and brought your most precious possession, your culture, and shared it with us.
He urged them to keep on doing this. The Church needs your strength, vigour, energy. Work hard to bring people into the catechumenate.Drawing attention to the aging chaplaincy, the cardinal urged the community to encourage the young people to enter the priesthood and religious life so that they could take their place in the future chaplaincy.
After the Mass, the community continued its festivities at the Ioane Vito Centre in Newtown where it presented the cardinal with the highest honour, usually given only to the highest chief. This took the form of fine mats and food.
After the meal the Newtown youth group entertained with dancing and other items, and the altar servers sang.
by Cecily McNeill