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Papakura parish history told officially

On December 7 last year, exactly 92 years after it was formed, St Mary’s parish, Papakura, launched its official history book title Living Stones Building a Spiritual House. The parish was established by Bishop Patrick Cleary on December 7, 1927.

Living Stones begins with “Papakura Chronicles”, an initial history written by the late Fr Ernie Simmons. To this is added a short story of the local Māori people and their involvement in the very early pioneering days. Then, as with every parish history, the priests and religious who served in the parish are recorded, as are the priests and religious who came from the parish.

Papakura parish priest Fr Peter Murphy blessed the parish history book (held by Fr James Mulligan), at Mass on December 7,in thanksgiving for “mission accomplished”.

To quote Bishop Patrick Dunn in his foreword, “no stone has been left unturned” as the history goes on to relate events and happenings with various committees and councils; parishioner involvement in the many groups and sodalities, both pre- and post-Vatican II; plus those people who worked behind the scenes of parish life, as well as those caught in the spotlight. Also told are the memories and stories of older parishioners.

The book then moves on to tell of the two parish primary schools, parish
finances and parish properties, as well as a variety of other statistics.

Ararimu and Ramarama Catholics are also included in this history as are
the Papakura Army Camp chaplains. Interestingly, there’s also a short story
of the very first church in the district, the story of St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Drury, opened and blessed by Bishop Croke in 1872, but which sadly now no longer exists.

Living Stones Building a Spiritual House, was compiled by the St Mary’s
Parish History Team: Fr James Mulligan, Jovita Parker, Jacky Whitham and Margaret Paton.

It’s available from St Mary’s Parish Papakura (office@stmaryspapakura.
co.nz) and costs $40.00.

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Keeping hope alive at Bethlehem University

Keeping hope alive for the Palestinian students of Bethlehem University is one of the biggest challenges for vice-chancellor Br Peter Bray, FSC, because the students’ way to education is literally paved with barriers, trenches and walls that they (students) have to overcome every single day.

Br Peter, a New Zealander who has been the vice-chancellor for the last 12 years, said there is little for Palestinians to be optimistic about. He spoke at the Pompallier Diocesan Centre on January 29 at an event organised by Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission.

“Hope has [to have] something [to do] with, for our students in that situation, realising that there are people outside that situation who have some understanding of what’s happening there and are standing in solidarity with them. The key thing is they are not forgotten,” he said.

“And so, for me to go back and tell students there about this group that gathered to listen about them will let them know they are not forgotten,” he said, as he thanked the people who attended his presentation.

Br Peter highlighted the severe restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli government to control Palestinians. Checkpoints are spread throughout Palestine, with four around Bethlehem.

This means the students’ social lives are restricted. They cannot come and go to or from their friends’ houses as they please. Their time is wasted on fruitless searches by Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. Sometimes, they are even strip-searched.

“The checkpoints are the ones that are the most in their face,” said Br Peter.

Br Peter said the injustices that Palestinians deal with, like the expansion of Israeli settlements into their land, are plenty and huge. As a university, he said, they have a responsibility to resist injustice.

“What we’re trying to do in that resistance is to highlight the injustice of it and to try [to] bring about a change,” he said.

“I think it’s important to say that it is not a passive helplessness. Non-violent resistance is an active thing. It’s a resistance moving towards faith, hope and love, in an effort to overcome darkness and hatred. We are not trying to return like we receive.”

Br Peter said that [this year] Bethlehem University has about 3200 students, 76 per cent of whom are Muslims, while the remaining 24 per cent are Christians. In Palestine only about two per cent of the population are Christians.

“One of the reasons the university was started was to provide support for Christians in the Holy Land,” he said. The university is a joint venture between the Vatican and the De la Salle Brothers.

Before the university started, Br Peter explained, Christian students had to leave Palestine to get a tertiary education. “And they never came back,” he said.

He said the university provided opportunities for Christian Palestinians to stay in Palestine.

This also meant that Muslim and Christian Palestinians get the opportunity to meet each other and appreciate one another. “I think this is one of our significant contributions to Palestine,” he said.

Amid all the chaos in their lives, Br Peter said the university is trying to provide an “oasis of peace”.

He said they are freeing students “from all that limits their capacities”

“When they walk in the university, they are safe,” he said. “They are in a safe, caring, predictable environment.”

A student in one of the video interviews that Br Peter played for the Auckland audience said, “they do not think of me as a number, but as a leader for the next generation”.

The university has five faculties: education, science, nursing, business and arts, as well as an institute for hotel management and tourism. In 2012, the university purchased an abandoned hospital building, and converted it into a facility for teaching hotel management.

Br Peter called on Kiwi Catholics to stand in solidarity with the university. He said they are limited in all sorts of ways.

“I would just like to make a point that solidarity is not charity,” he said. “It’s not an insignificant thing. It requires you to take a stand.”

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Milestone for Dunedin’s last Christian Brother

by JEFF DILLON

The only Christian Brother left in Dunedin, Br Graeme Donaldson, CFC, celebrated his 70th jubilee of his religious profession on January 23 with a Mass of Thanksgiving at St Patrick’s Basilica in South Dunedin, the church in which he had been baptised.

The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael Dooley, with Fr Gerard Aynsley, Msgr Vincent Walker, Fr Michael Hill, IC, Fr Mervyn McGettigan, and Fr Mervyn Hannifin concelebrating. The occasion attracted a large gathering of well-wishers, numbering close to 200.

Br Donaldson, 86, is one of just 10 elderly members of the order left in New
Zealand, with the others retired in either Christchurch or Auckland. Some had travelled down to join in the celebration.

A leader in the group, Br Bill Dowling, CFC, from Christchurch, gave words of welcome at the beginning of Mass.

The homily was given by Fr Aynsley, parish priest of Mercy Parish. He said that he had been taught by Christian Brothers at school and that he was honoured to speak. Though he had been told by Br Donaldson “not to talk him up”, he noted that Br Donaldson himself was well known at public occasions for wanting to recognise the goodness done by others and urging a chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow”.

Fr Aynsley reflected on religious vocations, the vocation of a Christian and
the call to discipleship. That day’s Gospel spoke of crowds of people coming to listen to Jesus. They weren’t captivated by an ideology, but they were captivated by the person of Jesus. Fr Aynsley suggested that, throughout Br Donaldson’s life, he had been captivated by that person, Jesus Christ . . . “[you were] captivated by him and desired to respond to his presence in your life”.

He noted that Br Donaldson acknowledged that he had two vocations. His vocation as a Christian Brother and also his vocation to teach. Fr Aynsley mentioned that he recalled hearing Br Donaldson talking on a number of occasions — and with some delight — of teaching classes of 50 or 60 boys in his early years of teaching. Br Donaldson interrupted at that point and suggested that should be doubled. (As he later revealed, he taught a class of 109 boys in Queensland in the mid-1950s.)

Fr Aynsley suggested that Br Donaldson had also continued his vocation
when he became a prison chaplain in 1992. He further suggested that his most recent phase represented a third vocation. He said that Br Donaldson had defined the new phase as “being rewired and re-fired” as he continued as a member of this parish and diocese through his involvement at the St Vincent de Paul shop and through visiting many people during each week. He is constantly out among people and enjoying that role.

Towards the end of Mass, Br Donaldson took the opportunity to give a lengthy and entertaining summary of his life — the key ingredient of which was the decision to leave Dunedin to answer the call to become a Christian Brother when he was 16.

He entered St Enda’s Juniorate at Strathfield in Australia in 1950. After a few years of training, he spent most of the rest of that decade in Australian school postings, before being sent to St Peter’s College in Epsom, Auckland in 1960. For almost the next 30 years, he mainly taught in Auckland (two times), Oamaru (three times), Dunedin, and Christchurch
(two times). He finished in Christchurch in 1990. That was followed by time out on compassionate family leave through 1991, before beginning as a Dunedin prison chaplain from 1992 through to 2008.

He noted that, in 1982, he was given 29 weeks of leave and spent time in Rome. It was during that time that “he found
his God or rather his God found him”. He had, up to that time, regarded his God as one of awe and majesty, who was
statue-like and impersonal. But he came to the view that God was a friend in the form of Jesus Christ, whom he could talk to and relate to.

“Anything I have achieved has been God working through me,” he said.

The congregation gave him warm applause at the conclusion of his speech. After Mass, a cup of tea and light refreshments were served in the foyer, where well-wishers gathered to continue their congratulations.

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First Mass on NZ soil commemorated

by WIGA AUTET

More than 300 tangata whenua (locals) and manuhiri (guests) gathered at Totara Point in Hokianga on Sunday, January 12, to participate in a Mass commemorating the great and unique taonga (treasure) that a French-born Catholic bishop, Jean-Baptiste Pompallier, had brought with him to Hokianga and to Aotearoa 182 years ago — the gift of the sacraments and of the life-nourishing Eucharist, in particular.

Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe celebrated the anniversary Mass, with seven priests concelebrating (some from a close-by Panguru, some from far away Wellington).

In his homily, Bishop Lowe had borrowed the familiar and strongly significant image of the Hokianga living waters — with the tide coming in and going out from the harbour — as a symbol of “breaking waters” bringing forth a new life.

He spoke of baptism, not as a “one-moment event”, but as the living waters of an awa (river) that flows in us, constantly redefining who we really are; of growing “into” one’s name — “becoming who we are called to be”; of our
lives as a continuous “coming to birth in many ways and moments”.

Bishop Lowe said: “Just as the harbour needs to die/empty itself so that, with the new tide coming in, a new life is brought forth — so it is with our lives. The more we die to ourselves; the more Christ might fill us anew and make us who we are called to be as his people.”

Referring to the taonga of the Eucharist in every Catholic miha (Mass), Bishop Lowe had these words for everyone: “It is equally — if not more — important that each one of us is like a midwife — bringing to birth that life of Christ in ourselves, to bring it forth to our world. Our world needs to
hear the Word of Jesus Christ.

And that is only going to happen if the waters of our baptism are broken and we become more fully disciples of Jesus Christ and his witnesses in the world.”

The tradition to gather, remember and worship on that exact spot, where Bishop Pompallier had celebrated the first Mass in 1838, has been observed
annually, and the attendance has been growing steadily over the years, both in terms of the individuals participating and the regions being represented.

Bishop Stephen Lowe with others at the celebrations. Trying on the mitre is Ethan Iosefo Amoa.(Photo: Jacek Drecki)

This was stressed by Sr Magdalen Sheahan, DOLC, — one of the kaitiaki (guardians) of the place, when she said to Bishop Lowe: “Just because Bishop Pat now has an assistant, it doesn’t mean you don’t come back here again. This is a national event!” The sister was referring to Bishop-elect Michael Gielen.

Indeed, Hokianga has been known as the “cradle of the Hahi Katorika” (Catholic faith) with the local Māori seen as first katorika and devoted kaitiaki, however, Bishop Pompallier had brought this precious and life giving taonga for the whole of Aotearoa/ New Zealand.

After the Mass, people walked up the hill to the centennial plinth, where everyone was invited to remember in prayer those who had missioned to this land, those who made a significant impact on individuals’ personal journey of faith, and finally — to pray for those present, that they might become “people of abundance and life who take Jesus to the world”.

Bishop Lowe then sprinkled the plinth with the holy water and imparted a solemn blessing on all present.

Traditional Māori hospitality and fellowship followed, where old bonds were rekindled, and new friendships formed under the bright blue sky and on the banks of — “filled with a new tide and life” — the Hokianga Harbour.

— Wiga Autet is faith formation coordinator, Te Tai Tokerau.

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First Mass in NZ waters was 250 years ago

by WIGA AUTET

Eight priests (including five Dominicans), a representative number of local parishioners and many others who travelled from different places in Auckland diocese came together to fill St Joseph’s church in Kaitaia on January 19 to commemorate the first Mass celebrated in New Zealand waters by a French Dominican priest, Fr Paul-Antoine Leonard de Villefeix, OP, on Christmas Day, 1769.

Fr Anthony Walsh, OP, prior provincial of the Dominican Friars for Australia, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, was the main celebrant, while Fr Alex Vickers, OP, delivered a homily in a true Dominican-preaching spirit.

He focused on the words of the responsorial psalm:

“Here I am Lord, I come to do your will”, and how we are all “worthy” to reply and witness to God’s power because we are all called by him — each in our own unique way and place. Just like St Dominic, more than 800 years ago, had heard God’s call and replied to it by gathering others — first Dominican sisters, then friars — to live the life of truth and light, so did Fr
Paul-Antoine, who accepted the call, joined the Dominican order and, as a chaplain on a French ship St Jean Baptiste, arrived in New Zealand waters 250 years ago.

And though there seem to be no entries in the ship logbook as to when and where he celebrated Masses, knowing that the ship was stationed in Doubtless Bay for two weeks and that one of these days was a Christmas Day, Fr Vickers said that “we can be morally sure” that a Catholic chaplain from a Catholic boat did say a Mass on Christmas Day in 1769. He also said that we know that Fr Paul-Antoine “went ashore, tended to the sick and buried the dead”.

And the fact that all this happened 44 years prior to what is considered the first Christian service here (Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1814), Fr Vickers summed up with: “We Dominicans like to get there first”.

In the prayers of the faithful which followed, Dominican sisters, Sr Bernie Cheyne, OP, and Sr Joan Hardiman, OP, prayed for love, unity and wisdom to work together: Catholics with Protestants, Franciscans with Dominicans and authorities with protesters.

Beautiful hymns and waiata were sung at the Mass and Hami mo te Tupapaku (De Profundis) was sung after Communion to pray for Fr Paul Antoine and all those gone before us.

After the Mass, a light luncheon was provided to allow for more conversations and fellowship.

• But there is more to the story of a French chaplain bringing the gift of a holy Mass — a sacrament of love and unity — to New Zealand 250 years ago on board the St Jean Baptiste.

The French left behind them sadness and hurt. The captain, Jean Francois Marie de Surville, instead of showing gratitude for the hospitality, fresh food and assistance offered to him and his crew — exhausted after a long passage from the Philippines — by the local chief Ranganui and his people, had accused him (Ranganui) of a theft of a ship’s yawl (a two-masted sailing vessel)that got stranded on the beach after a big storm on December 27, 1769.

In reprisal for the alleged, but unproven, theft, Ranganui was taken aboard de Surville’s ship, which set sail for Peru on December 31. Both de Surville and Ranganui were dead within 12 weeks. The captain drowned in heavy seas off the Peru coast in April, 1770, while seeking help for his dying crew.

According to the ship’s log, Ranganui was well treated, eating regularly
at the captain’s table, but like many others, he became affected by scurvy and died at sea on March 24, 1770.

When approaching New Zealand in early December, 1769, de Surville narrowly missed Captain James Cook, on the Endeavour, and the ships almost crossed paths off the top of the North Island, and although de Surville named the bay Lauriston Bay, today it is known as Doubtless Bay, as named by Cook a few days previously.

Two of the St Jean Baptiste’s anchors, which had to be cut free in a storm, were recovered by Kelly Tarlton in 1974; one is on display in Te Papa, Wellington, one in Te Ahu in Kaitaia.

A monument with a plaque commemorating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the explorer and trader de Surville on the St Jean Baptiste was erected near Patia Point, Whatuwhiwhi, in 1969 by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, with support from the French Embassy in New Zealand.

The inscription on the plaque read, “J – F– M De Surville anchored his ship Saint Jean Baptiste in Doubtless Bay 17 – 31 December 1769 to refresh his men. He visited a pa on this headland 30 December.”

The monument site is not an easy place to find, and my recent expedition to search for it was a true challenge. After a few attempts — I found it! Sadly, the plaque has been removed. Maybe, instead of seeing it as a “loss”, it could be viewed as an “opportunity” — to repair the wrongs, seek reconciliation and to place a new plaque, with a wording that would acknowledge the whole story.

Wiga Autet is faith formation coordinator, Te Tai Tokerau.

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Kiwi-Filipinos now papal knight and dame

The Kiwi-Filipino couple who first brought the devotion to the Santo Niño to Auckland 26 years ago have been made a knight and a dame of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvester Pope and Martyr.

Oscar and Miriam Batucan, founder and organisers of the NZ Filipino Devotees of the Senyor Sto. Niño, were made knight and dame of the Sylvestrine Order by Pope Francis in recognition of their active participation in the life of the Church in Auckland.

The award was given upon recommendation of Auckland Bishop Patrick
Dunn, who described Mr and Mrs Batucan as “stalwarts in the Filipino community over many years, especially in the Santo Niño devotion”.

The award was given to the couple by vicar-general Msgr Bernard Kiely on
behalf of Bishop Dunn at the Eventfinda Stadium, formerly the North Shore
Events Centre, on January 19.

The Pontifical Order of St Sylvester is one of five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Vatican City head of state.

Mr Batucan said the award came as a surprise.

“We didn’t expect it. We received a call (from Bishop Patrick Dunn’s office)
asking for our full names. So, I gave it to them. I didn’t think anything of it,”
he said.

“I feel like I’m walking on clouds,” he added. “I’m so amazed at being acknowledged.”

Mrs Batucan said she was overwhelmed by the honour.

“We keep on doing things to serve the Lord. Sometimes, we didn’t know if what we were doing is right or not, if we were reaching people with the grace of God, but we just kept going,” she said.

“We have been serving the Church for 26 years without any expectations. We just love serving the Lord.”

Msgr Kiely, in his homily, acknowledged the Filipino community’s contribution to New Zealand, citing their courage in leaving their homeland behind and making a new life in this country.

“We acknowledge an important dimension in what it is to be a Filipino:
your faith,” he said.

He said their devotion to the Child Jesus is marked by child-like “simplicity,
obedience and trust in God”, but noted that, at the same time, it is a “mature discipleship”.

Msgr Kiely also prayed for the tens of thousands of Filipinos affected by the explosion of Taal Volcano in the Philippines.

The Mass started with the traditional Sinulog dance, with women in Filipino native costumes moving two steps forward and one step back. The huge statue of the Santo Niño was processed in and displayed on the right-hand side of the stage, while hundreds of smaller statues decorated the front of the stage.

Filipino priests Frs Gilbert Ramos, Carlos Guleng, Sam Pulanco and Larry
Rustia were concelebrants at the Mass. Fr Pulanco, a devotee of the Sto Niño, led the crowd in singing and dancing at the end of the Mass.

The original statue, one of the oldest Christian relics in the Philippines, is presently housed at the Basilica Minore Del Sto. Niño in Cebu City in the Philippines.

The nearly 500-year-old statue was a gift to Filipino chieftain Rajah Humabon’s wife, Amihan, by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.

Pope Francis had been invited by the Catholic Bishops Conference of
the Philippines to revisit the country next year to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the country’s conversion to Christianity.

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God’s wisdom shown in his revealed Word

February 16: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time; Readings: 1. Sirach 15:15-20; Psalm: 119a; 2. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37.

The wisdom featured in these passages of Scripture is straightforward and, therefore, quickly understood. Sirach, Paul and Matthew broach the topic with great simplicity.

Fr Kevin Waldie SM

So, in the first reading, choosing to live a good, holy and faithful existence proves to be the essence of Sirach’s wise words. The choice of living in faithfulness or sin is up to each individual. But the over-riding thought here is that God oversees our lives, willing the good for us all. Being able to grasp that is integral to our wisdom learning.

When Paul here addresses the Corinthians, he makes a distinction between worldly wisdom and the wisdom that comes from God, a wisdom revealed through the Word of God. What is revealed requires faith because it concerns the mystery of the crucified Lord and what God has prepared for all believers. This, in brief, is about a love that is shown and then calls for a response. Being able to see the power of heavenly wisdom set forth in these verses opens the way to eternal life.

In Matthew today, Jesus’ words come to us in a very stylised sequence of sayings. This pattern of speech uses a repeated formula to highlight Jesus’ personal, divine authority. That formula appears as ‘You have heard it said . . . but I say to you’. This makes it very clear that the wisdom spoken in these verses calls for a keen ear to hear these words properly and then implement the radical commitment they demand. This reinforces the fact that a choice has to be made concerning the good life God calls everyone to embrace every day.

When heard in all their simplicity, this Sunday’s readings speak a message that is direct, while reflecting the wisdom that God makes known to us through his revealed Word.

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JPC calls for tighter firearms controls in NZ

Auckland diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission has told a parliamentary select committee that urgent attention should be given to the tight control of advertising of all gun sales, especially where young people might see it.

In a submission on a supplementary order paper (SOP) aimed at amending aspects of the Arms Legalisation Bill, the commission also called for consideration to “be given to investigating the contribution of video games that some
alleged perpetrators of mass killings claim to have used for training purposes.

These may be contributing to an unhealthy gun culture”.

“In the interests of a healthier, safer society we look forward to more comprehensive gun control measures continuing to be introduced,” the JPC stated in a presentation before Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee last year.

The JPC commended the Government on its intention to severely restrict the availability of automatic weapons and
to continue with its amnesty and buyback schemes.

The Government was urged to continue on the path of introducing a comprehensive programme to register all
guns, “without which the effectiveness of other laudable measures will be severely diminished”.

Addressing some of the technical aspects of the supplementary order paper, the commission stated its support for the extension of the legislation to the sale and use of pistols.

It supported many of the changes proposed, including a proposed expansion of the regulation making power in the Arms Act 1983 to prohibit categories of firearms through an Order in Council.

But while it acknowledged greater controls being proposed for pistol carbine conversion kits (PCCK), the JPC, in its oral presentation, stated that, “given the risks that these parts could pose to the general population, we recommend that they should be banned outright and subject to a six-month amnesty and buyback, like other prohibited weapons and parts”.

A pistol carbine conversion kit is defined in the SOP as “a frame or kit that may be used to convert a pistol designed
or adapted to be held and fired with one hand . . . that has an overall length of no more than 400mm, into a firearm that may be fired from the shoulder”.

The JPC submission acknowledged that “the effect [of such a ban] will be to place some limitations on those who
participate in pistol and Airsoft-type sports. But these limitations will not eliminate or endanger those sports.

They will merely affect the range of sub-disciplines accessible to participants. We believe that this is an acceptable trade off for public safety”.

In its presentation to the select committee, the JPC stated that: “Even eight months after the Christchurch attack, semi-automatic pistols are still openly advertised and sold in New Zealand.”

“We believe these should be banned outright and consideration be given to banning all pistols along the lines of the UK legislation. These measures will require the extension of the amnesty and buy-back scheme so as to include pistols.”

The submission also criticised trials of routinely-armed police squads in some areas.

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Long confession queues at convention

by MINA AMSO

The largest ever gathering of young Chaldean people in Auckland, which took place last month, proved that God can do miracles no matter what the situation.

Fadi Yalda, convention oganiser and ex-seminarian, said the planning team felt young people were hungry for spiritual renewal. He witnessed youth queueing up, sometimes up to 16 individuals at a time, for confession, and this was running until late each night, despite having four to five priests available.

“I myself didn’t expect it,” said Mr Yalda.

He added that the demand for confessions meant organisers had to cancel planned night activities like the
Burma trail, a bush walk within the camp complex.

“We had to have the lights out [too] because that’s part of the rules of the camp. So we told them to come back tomorrow night. And Saturday was the same thing, and Sunday night the same thing.”

Fr Douglas Al-Bazi, parish priest of the Chaldean church of St Addai the Apostle in Auckland, believed it was the grace of God calling young people to confession.

“I would not say [I am] surprised, but the grace of our Lord will always provide a way. It doesn’t matter if one is young or old, but it is how much we are open to God.

“It is the [continuation] of the miracles of how God shows us his love,” said Fr Al-Bazi.

“I think the youth are hungry, are really hungry. They need the spiritual food,” said Mr Yalda.

The convention, run every two years, with the first having been in Sydney, and a subsequent one in Melbourne, was organised by the archdiocese of St Thomas the Apostle, the Chaldean Eastern Catholic Church in Australasia.

Priests and speakers from Auckland, Christchurch, Australia and the United States attended the January event, including Archbishop Amel Nona, the Archbishop of St Thomas Chaldean Catholic Diocese of Australia and New
Zealand.

Members of the Beatitudes community from Christchurch were also at the meeting.

The convention was attended by 160 young people, 130 of whom travelled from Sydney and Melbourne. There were
also speakers, priests and volunteers.

There was daily Mass, talks, group discussions, prayer, fun activities, separate workshops for men and women, as well as adoration and confession each night. The latter two were new for the convention.

The theme was taken from the First Letter of St John about the world not knowing the believers in Christ because it didn’t know Christ himself. Discussions were around being a disciple of Christ for the world, the persecution of Christians today and being a witness.

Hosting the convention was a big deal, said Fr Al-Bazi.

“There’s a difference between the two generations. The one that came from back home, Iraq, and the generation that grew up here and/or [later was] born here [in New Zealand] . . . so to have a convention like that in Auckland for our youth, for me, is actually to build bridges between generations and between our youth as well.”

“[The youth] were really happy. As they told me, especially from Auckland, they felt honoured to host the convention.”

Mr Yalda said young people of today need to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, in a calm, quiet atmosphere
before the Lord, where they can sit and reflect upon their lives.

He said the majority of these young adults live in big cities and struggle to get a moment or two in silence, let alone have a reflective space and be intimate with Jesus.

Fr Al-Bazi said he is working with Archbishop Nona on future mission trips for the youth to serve Iraqi refugees in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.

The five-day convention began on January 16 and took place at the YMCA Camp Adair in Hunua, south Auckland.

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Caring and advocacy in a spirit of compassion

Caring for people in need and advocating for human rights for more than 60 years has seen a Wellington religious sister receive the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community.

Sr Catherine Hannan, DOLC, was awarded the medal in the New Year’s Honours List.

Sr Catherine, who joined the Sisters of Compassion in 1953, told NZ Catholic that receiving the honour is “a bit embarrassing”.

“Well, it really reflects on the congregation, the Sisters of Compassion, because anything I have been doing has been with other sisters and in the name of the congregation for many years.”

And Sr Catherine has done plenty in her religious life.

After training to be teacher, she taught in a school the sisters had for intellectually and physically handicapped young people and she then taught at two Māori schools the sisters then ran on the Whanganui River.

She describes her time living among these Māori communities as “her greatest education”.

But it was by no means her only education. She went on to do an honours degree in social science and a Diploma in Counselling at Sydney University.

That led her to be involved with a Coptic Orthodox community, helping them buy a church. She also worked at an Aborigine Mission at Wilcannia in outback Australia.

Sr Catherine worked in many roles and apostolates in New Zealand — including being a senior social worker at Wellington Catholic Social Services and a Catholic chaplain at Arohata Women’s Prison, chairing Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and being on the board of Challenge 2000 in Wellington. A former leader for her congregation, she served on the Wellington Archdiocesan Pastoral Council and was a New Zealand representative at several international religious leader forums.

She joked that her brother once told her that “he thought it was ’join the navy and see the world’, but he now thinks “ no, ‘it is join the convent’”.

When she started her life as a religious, she had no idea she would be involved in such a variety of works.

“It is just sort of one of the ways how it worked out,” she said. “I really liked the idea that, when something came up, to explore it, rather than to say ‘no’, and that just led to a lot of intriguing things.”

One of the more interesting of these was her being a member of the Prostitution Law Review Committee, which was created by Parliament when the Prostitution Reform Bill (which decriminalised prostitution) came
into law early this century.

While seeking out the people on the streets who used the sisters’ soup kitchen in Wellington, she had come across the work of the Prostitute’s Collective, which was attempting to help these women. Sr Catherine became
“interested in what was happening there”.

She said “the social justice group I was with were right behind that [decriminalisation], because it gave the women the ordinary rights that any citizen has.

Not that we like prostitution, but it gave the women these rights that everybody should have. Up until then, if they complained about abuse, they were likely to be the ones picked up”.

“Then-Justice Minister Phil Goff approached the cardinal for someone from the Church on the five-year review committee, and the cardinal put my name forward,” Sr Catherine said.

Asked by NZ Catholic if she knew of anyone raising an eyebrow about her involvement, Sr Catherine said “I think they may have been surprised”.

When asked what Suzanne Aubert would have thought about this, she said
“I think she would be right behind it for she told us, ‘Let us have a balm for every suffering, a smile for every tear and forgiveness for every failing’.”

But being a committee member did come in useful.

“It was quite handy at times to say, no, I can’t come to this function, I have my prostitution committee.”

Later, Sr Catherine would branch out to be president of Wellington South Rotary in 2014 and 2015.

“I have found it is very good to be involved in work beyond the Church,” she said.

These days, she still volunteers at the soup kitchen, as she has done for 20 years. And she is still involved with the Wellington Women’s Homeless Trust — she was in the team which initiated it. And she is a member of two book clubs, she told NZ Catholic.

“I don’t have the energy I once had, but it is all so life-giving.”

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