NZ Catholic

Locked down Church community keeps faith

“I feel like we are entering into another type of Lent.”

This was Dunedin Bishop Michael Dooley’s reflection in his pastoral letter on March 22 as the New Zealand bishops made the painful decision to cancel all Masses – starting on March 20 and until further notice.

The bishops had to make another “heartbreaking decision” to close churches after the Government advised it was putting the country into lockdown from 11.59pm on March 25 to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus/Covid-19.

The lockdown put a halt to planned first confessions and communions throughout the country as well as to weddings and funerals.

Spiritual fasting

“Reluctantly, we are ‘fasting’ from the Eucharist, but this can be a chance to appreciate the gift of it more fully,” Bishop Dooley said.

The bishops earlier gave people in their dioceses dispensation from their obligation to attend Sunday Masses and holy days of obligation in accordance with Canon 1248.

Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe suggested “spiritual communion, which is a rich part of the Church’s spiritual wealth for those who cannot receive Holy Communion”.

He also asked people to be “sensible and flexible”.

“I ask you, please do not make this a ‘political’ issue, but rather, reading the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel, look at this time as an opportunity to grow in your own spiritual life and holiness,” he said in his pastoral letter.

Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin, SM, also called on people to deepen their spiritual life.

“This will certainly be a different Lent than we have ever experienced before. But we are people who believe in a God who loves us and in whom we trust, through all the stages of life and whatever might happen. Let us place our trust in him, pray for strength and courage as we face these challenges and not let fear rule our heart,” he said.

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn encouraged families to celebrate Sunday “as a domestic Church”.

“Moving to Alert 4 sees all of us self-isolating. Not just to keep ourselves safe, but those about us. This requires our church buildings to close. But not the Living Church. We, the people of God, are still missionary disciples, praying for and supporting one another,” he said.

New normal

With available technology, the different dioceses put links to streamed Masses on their websites. More prayer and reflection resources had been made available online.

Bishops Dunn, Lowe and Martin celebrated online Sunday Masses, the links to which were posted on their Facebook pages as well as on websites. Different priests also celebrated daily Masses across the country.

Bishop Lowe celebrated a Votive Mass, a Mass celebrated for a particular need which, in this case, was protection from the pandemic.

“It’s bizarre for me to be preaching before a camera. Whenever I preach, I get engaged with people sitting in front of me and their reaction. Perhaps for you, it’s bizarre watching a homily from home, on a laptop or computer or a phone. But this again is a time for us experiencing something new, something new coming to birth within us. It is my hope that, at this time, as we pray the Mass together, me here in my chapel and you, wherever you may be, that we’ll enter into the mystery of the Mass more deeply, and the prayers,” he said.

Bishop Martin, in his homily on March 20, warned against seeing the pandemic as God’s punishment.

“It’s a really dangerous way to see God, and not one that measures up to what Jesus Christ revealed to us about the nature and the way that God operates. Indeed, in the event of the man who was blind, the Pharisees asked Jesus, who [it was that] sinned – this man or his parents, because they considered that his blindness was a punishment from God. Neither, says Jesus. This man’s [blindness] is so that the works of God may be made visible through him,” Bishop Martin stressed.

Bishop Dunn reflected on how the blind man came to see, while the Pharisees became more and more blind.

“The big issue is, for the Pharisees, did Jesus heal on the Sabbath day? For the blind man, and for us, the issue is, did he help a man born blind to see again, whatever day of the week it happened,” Bishop Dunn said.

“If that is the case, who is Jesus? And that’s the question that is in our hearts as we journey towards Easter.

“As we continue our lenten journey, we pray for the gift of sight that we can see Jesus in our day to day life . . . and you might even say in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Church is posting online Mass links on its National Liturgy Office website. The page has regular updates of links in New Zealand and overseas, including to the Pope’s daily Mass, held at 7pm New Zealand time.

Unusual kindness

Wellington Cardinal John Dew, in his reflection on March 26, called on the faithful to show “unusual kindness”.

“These unusual times call us to respond with unusual kindness, to go out of our way to be kind to those who are isolated, anxious, lonely, ill or suffering a bereavement. It is good to look after our fellow parishioners, but we are people called to mission. The people in our street, workmates, extended family and especially those who are struggling, all need ‘unusual kindness’.”

He also suggested Catholics donate financially, if not in goods, to foodbanks and community organisations.

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NZ Catholic

Jesus does great things when you say ‘yes’

At age seven, the new auxiliary bishop of Auckland, Bishop Michael Gielen, already knew life was empty without Jesus.

In his thanksgiving speech at the end of his ordination Mass, Bishop Gielen recalled his struggles as a young boy and how having Jesus in his life made all the difference.

Bishop Michael Gielen blesses the congregation after the Mass.

“I remember as a seven-year-old, standing on our farm and wondering what life was all about. I had asthma, chronic asthma all year. I had had two weeks of injections. I was struggling at school. And I remember an emptiness deep inside and a lack of meaning in my life,” he said.

“A year later, all that changed. We started going back to Mass as a family. It was like rivers, fresh springs of living water, flowing within us, slowly changing us. And as a little boy, I noticed it.”

These “fresh springs of water” carried him through to his ordination as auxiliary bishop on March 7, at the Vodafone Events Centre in south Auckland, with 3000 people at the ordination Mass.

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn was brimming with joy at having an auxiliary bishop.

Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe was saddened at the loss of a good priest.

“The diocese of Hamilton is delighted for Bishop Michael, but it’s a sad loss for us. We wish him every blessing in his ministry up here. He’s been an awesome priest in Hamilton and we’re sure he’ll be an awesome bishop in Auckland,” Bishop Lowe said.

Bishop Gielen thanked his mum, Maureen, and dad, Deacon Henk Gielen and members of his “precious family” who had given him love and support. Deacon Gielen was the deacon at the ordination Mass.

During the powhiri before the Mass were (from left) Maureen Gielen (holding child), Deacon Henk Gielen, then-Bishop-elect Michael Gielen and Bishop Stephen Lowe.

Other bishops who were present at the ordination included Wellington Cardinal John Dew, Dunedin Bishop Michael Dooley, Bishop Colin Campbell, Bishop Basil Meeking, Bishop Peter Cullinane, Bishop Owen Dolan, Bishop Denis Browne, as well as Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers.

Waka faith journey

Bishop Gielen likened his faith journey to that of a waka travelling on rivers.

“[My family] went further upriver, to the land flowing with milk and honey . . . and trees, Tokoroa,” he said to the laughter of the crowd.

“It is there I learned how to be a Christian. It is there I was taught how . . . to move from a lamb to one of God’s sheep. I was loved and encouraged,” he said in a more serious vein.

He said the church in Tokoroa was a simple, rectangular, 1950s church.

“It’s not until you go inside, and this is true of our Catholic faith as well, it’s not until you enter that you really experience the beauty of the Church,” he said.

He recalled having his first communion, confirmation and eventually, his priestly ordination at that church.

“I was ordained a priest there by Bishop Max Mariu, and if I’m correct, I was the only one ordained by Bishop Max Mariu,” he said. “Thank you, Bishop Denis (Browne), for making that possible.”

Before the Mass, the bishop-to-be has a word with Bishop Denis Browne, who was in a wheelchair.

He served in parishes in the East Coast, Waikato, North Waikato and Raglan. “You formed me and carved me and beat me into the man that I’ve become today, into a shepherd. And I thank you for that, each of you,” he said.

He went to Rome for training and came back as formator for Holy Cross Seminary. “[I was . . .] to teach these seminarians, or to be formed by them or to form them. I’m never sure which way it goes,” he said.

Now, his waka is setting off for Auckland.

“I have good news. Whether you are seven or seventy, Jesus loves you. Jesus will never leave you alone. Jesus has amazing things in life for you, whatever your age is, if you trust him and ask him into your life, like my family did. It’s amazing what he can do when we say, ‘yes’. Thank you for your ‘yes’ and let us travel together in our waka wherever God leads us,” he said.

Just be yourself

Bishop Dunn, in his homily, gave the 48-year-old new bishop one piece of advice.

Auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen

“Just be yourself. You don’t have to be a clone of anyone else. ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.’ God sees gifts he’s entrusted to you and all he asks, and you know this, is just to use them. Not with a spirit of timidity, but with a spirit of power, love and self-control,” Bishop Dunn said.

Speaking on the first and second readings chosen by Bishop Gielen for the ordination (Jeremiah 1:4-9 and 1 Timothy 1:6-14), Bishop Dunn noted how both the prophet Jeremiah and St Paul’s follower, Timothy, were young men.

“Jeremiah said, ‘I’m too young. I’m not qualified. There are other people better equipped. Haven’t got the right training.’ And God says, ‘just go. Get moving!’,” Bishop Dunn said. “I’m sure he said those words to Michael today. But he says them to all of us, too.”

Bishop Michael Gielen with students from St Joseph’s Catholic School, Pukekohe, after his ordination Mass.

Bishop Dunn said St Paul also told Timothy not to let people put him (Timothy) down because of his (Timothy’s) youth and lack of experience.

“He (St Paul) said, ‘Timothy, when I laid hands on you . . . which we say now to serve as a priest or a bishop . . . you didn’t receive a spirit of timidity. You received the spirit of power and love and self-control’,” Bishop Dunn said.

“(What) . . . Paul says to Timothy, he’s saying to Michael today . . . But he says it to us, too! When you were baptised, when you were confirmed, it wasn’t with a spirit of timidity. It was a spirit of power, love and self-control,” Bishop Dunn explained.

The Gospel reading, often called the Peter chapter, was about Jesus asking Peter if Peter loved him (Jesus).

“Jesus meets Peter and he (Jesus) doesn’t say, Peter, how could you screw up so much? Peter, what did you not understand? Peter, when will you ever learn to listen before you talk? He (Jesus) asks the only question that matters. He says, Peter, do you love me? Three times. Poor old Peter,” Bishop Dunn said.

“(Peter) . . . said, you know I do. And so, the fisherman is commissioned as a shepherd. Michael, we know that you love Jesus. I love your motto, Totus Tuus, all yours,” Bishop Dunn said. “We welcome you as a new bishop in the college of bishops. We certainly, I certainly, welcome you as a new bishop in Auckland.”

Pope’s letter

Deputy head of mission and first secretary at the Apostolic Nunciature in Wellington Msgr Edward Karaan read the papal bull at the ordination in the place of Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa, who went into self-isolatation after a brief trip to Italy.

In the letter to Bishop Gielen, Pope Francis said he has given in to the request of Bishop Dunn to appoint “an auxiliary bishop in order to more fittingly provide for the pastoral needs of the community”.

“Dear son, it seems fitting that this office be entrusted to you, for the necessary strength of reason and character and skills in pastoral matters have clearly been observed in you,” the Pope wrote.

The Pope urged Bishop Gielen to serve the people eagerly and act faithfully in his (Bishop Gielen’s) new ministry.

Reactions from the people at the ordination Mass

Tony and Jan Baker, Mt Maunganui: “Amazing, a special man, very spiritual, atmosphere amazing! We left at 6:30am this morning, in a big bus with 36 people.”

(Left) Airini Turner, Herne Bay/ Ponsonby: “Breath-taking, amazing, awesome, all those adjectives. The decision to have it here was absolutely right. Like Bishop Pat, a peoples’ bishop.” Taumi Hau, Herne Bay/ Ponsonby: “The whole thing was very holy. It was best to have it here. He’s such a hard case — better suited here in Auckland. The mix of people that came — of all the ethnicities, from the little babies to the older babies.”

Josephine Bartley, Glen Innes/ Panmure: “Felt really, really special to me, once in a lifetime. It helped me relive [a] Catholic upbringing, sitting in a Catholic school again but it [was] not ‘like this’ sitting in Mass. I’ve never been [at] Mass with 3000 before, I love the acknowledgement of Māori Tangata Whenua, of Pasifika or Samoa and Tonga.

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Resources for prayer at home put on liturgy office website

The National Liturgy Office has put links to Masses around the world on their website as well as livestreams of daily celebration of morning Mass from different dioceses across New Zealand after the Government prohibited public gatherings to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

National Liturgy Office acting director Fr John O’Connor told NZ Catholic there are already resources on their website that people can use to pray with at home, whether on their own or with others.

“We have links to Mass celebrated in other places, other parts of the world, just to give people a variety,” he said.

He said this will include Pope Francis’ Masses, but added that because of the time difference, the Pope’s Mass would be late for Sunday.

Fr O’Connor recently released as extract from the statement of the Apostolic Penitentiary on what to do when you cannot receive the sacraments because of quarantine.

Earlier, he issued guidelines for Mass practices, which included the distribution of communion by hand, not distributing from the chalice, avoiding shaking hands at the sign of peace as well as removing holy water from fonts.

These practices are voluntary at Mass, anyway, he said.

The website’s link:

Fr O’Connor also said Magnificat, an American online and app prayer resource, has made access to their site free for the time of the pandemic.

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Pope Francis to give Urbi et Orbi blessing

Pope Francis is leading a prayer from the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome today March 27 (March 28 ,6 am NZ time) where he will confer a plenary indulgence and the Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Pope Francis is inviting everyone, Catholics and the rest of the world, to unite in praying for the end of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Urbi et Orbi ( to the city of Rome and to the world) is a formal blessing usually given only at Christmas and Easter or immediately after a new pope is elected.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa told NZ Catholic that the Holy See has asked all the bishops to inform everyone of the Pope’s invitation.

“This is an act of worship and prayer, imploring God’s mercy and intervention in what we are experiencing worldwide. It is in this context of fighting against the spread of this virus which is devastating and afflicting almost all the people in other countries now. We are asking them to come together as people of God,” he said.

The nuncio explained this is a special blessing, because it is not only for Catholics whom the Pope leads in service, but for every person of faith.

“It is not Mass. It is just an appointment of prayers. That is the first part will be the proclamation of the Word of God, some meditation on that, this will be followed by adoration of [the] Blessed Sacrament. After that, the Holy Father will confer and declare the indulgence that will go with this action. After that he will give the blessing,” Archbishop Rugambwa explained.

The plenary indulgence is for those who follow on television, radio or Internet. However, those who are receiving the indulgence should be sorry for their sins and go to confession and receive communion as soon as they are able.

The nuncio observed there are countries where the medical system is probably not as good as it is here in New Zealand.  He said coming together in prayer “could be a way to help and show our solidarity, not only physically but also spiritually”.  

“We hope this will help. That is the special element of this appeal of the Holy Father for prayer,” he said.

“Pray together. This trial that we are facing, we can’t do anything. We are not in control of the situation in this world. No matter how intelligent we might look and seem strong. But there is no doubt we need something supernatural, some supernatural element in our life in our way of tackling our problems.”

The papal blessing will be livestreamed in New Zealand on March 28 at 6 am. Those who wish to join can go to and

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