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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.

www.nlo.org.nz/news-and-events/media-releases/celebrate-mass-online/

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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Sadness at Msgr Browne’s death

Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe expressed sadness over the passing away of Msgr Michael Browne, brother of Bishop Emeritus of Hamilton, Bishop Denis Browne. Msgr Browne was 85.

“The Lord has called Michael home at 10.20pm. May he know the fullness of God’s love,” Bishop Denis said in a text message to Bishop Lowe on March 3, 2020.

Msgr Browne’s roles in Hamilton diocese included being vicar for administration, Clergy Trust Fund secretary, treasurer of the CTF and Medicare Fund, member of the DFC, confessor for the Tyburn community, member of the Priest Council and College of Consultors, member of the Appointments Committee, Dean of the Hamilton North Deanery, convenor of the Boundaries Commission – being a sub-committee of the Priest Council – and chancellor for diocese.

He retired in 2013, residing first in Papamoa and then moving to Auckland.

Msgr Browne was ordained as a priest in 1959 by Archbishop James Liston, having been trained at Holy Name Seminary, Christchurch and Holy Cross College, Mosgiel.

He was assistant parish priest in Onehunga (1959-1971) and Tauranga (1971-1975). He was then assigned as parish priest of Tokoroa (1975-1981), Gisborne (1981-1987), Matamata (1987-1997), Fairfield (1998-2002), Fairfield and Te Rapa (2002- 2006) and Tauranga (2007-2012).

A requiem Mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary on March 6, followed by burial at the Ohaupo Catholic Cemetery.

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Archdiocese to livestream Shroud of Turin on Holy Saturday

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With people forced to stay home, even during Holy Week, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the archbishop of Turin has announced a special online exposition of the Shroud of Turin, which many believe is the burial cloth of Jesus.

On Holy Saturday, April 11, as Christians contemplate Jesus lying in the tomb, Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia will lead a liturgy of prayer and contemplation before the shroud at 5pm local time (3am New Zealand time, Sunday, April 12).

The prayer service will be live-streamed along with live images of the 14-foot-by-4-foot shroud, which has a full-length photonegative image of a man, front and back, bearing signs of wounds that correspond to the Gospel accounts of the torture Jesus endured in his passion and death.

As of April 5, the Archdiocese of Turin said it was finalising the plans and would publish a list of participating television stations and links to the livestream later in the week.

Announcing the special display, Archbishop Nosiglia said on April 4 that he had received “thousands and thousands” of messages “asking me if, in this time of grave difficulty we are going through, it would be possible to pray this Holy Week before the shroud” and ask God for “the grace to defeat evil as he did, trusting in the goodness and mercy of God”.

The archbishop told Vatican News that the online viewing of the shroud could be “much better” than seeing it in person because the cameras will allow viewers to see it up close and to remain at length with the image.

The image of the crucified man on the shroud, he said, “will go to the heart and the sadness of many people who will follow us. It will be like staying with the Lord on the day we await his Resurrection”.

CNS Photo

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Largest Catholic school finally gets its chapel

After 81 years, what is now the largest Catholic secondary college in the country has a chapel that is fit for purpose.

The Chapel of St Peter the Apostle at St Peter’s College in Auckland was blessed and dedicated on March 13.

Many people — staff, students, benefactors, supporters, old boys, Christian Brothers, clergy, principals of other colleges, and many others processed to the doors of the new chapel as a resounding haka was performed by the college’s kapa haka group.

College chaplain, Msgr Paul Farmer, began his welcome by quoting from Psalm 118: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice”.

Msgr Farmer handed the keys of the chapel to headmaster James Bentley and board of trustees chair Mark McLauchlan, who unlocked the doors. The outside walls of the chapel were blessed.

During the service inside the building, the baptismal font, the table of the Word, the reconciliation chapel, a statue of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the chapel of reservation and the cross were blessed. The altar was consecrated and relics of St Peter Chanel and Blessed Edmund Rice were placed in it. The walls of the chapel were also anointed.

The service was relayed by live-feed to some 1000 students gathered in the school’s gymnasium. Among the clergy present were three former students of the college, Msgr Farmer, Msgr David Tonks and Fr Leonard Danvers, who had been at the college at the same time in the 1960s.

Clergy are among those welcomed with a haka.

In a homily, Msgr Farmer said that for many years, it has been said that “it is a great scandal that the biggest Catholic college in New Zealand does not have a chapel that is fit for purpose. Today, we do”.

The chapel had been a long time in “incubation”, Msgr Farmer said, but the vision of former headmaster Kieran Fouhy had become the vision of many.

Msgr Farmer encouraged every one of the 1250 boys at the college to visit the chapel. “This place belongs to each and every one of you.”

He said this chapel is a place of difference, a place of stillness, a place of quiet, a place of prayer, a place to listen and a place to reflect, for current and future students.

Later in the service, Mr Fouhy, now the headmaster of St Paul’s College in Ponsonby, referred to five previous, much smaller chapels, that had been elsewhere on the site.

“I congratulate everyone who has made this place possible,” Mr Fouhy said.

He hoped that students would use this chapel as students had previous ones, in that they would keep up a tradition of dropping in to the chapel to pray before classes started each day.

The baptismal font is filled.

Mr Fouhy said he liked the symbolism of the chapel being in the middle of three large crosses visible from major Auckland roads. But he also noted the flag outside being at half-mast, in remembrance of the mosque massacres a year ago.

The cross was an apt symbol, he said.

“I suppose every boy will experience failure, somewhere in his life. Every person does. In fact, in educational things, I think maybe it is a good thing. It proves that character can be built. It proves that we have to strive. The good times we know now won’t always be the good times.”

Mr McLauchlan said the chapel “is a defining symbol of who we are as a Catholic college”.

“We are immensely proud of this chapel, and we believe it has been worth the wait.”

He said people might ask, why did it take so long?

“I think it does pay to remember, for a good part of its history, the college has faced many challenges and financial struggles. There are, I know, staff still working for the college today who remember the days when bills to be paid went into the bottom drawer, waiting for funds to come in.”

But the opening is a “transformation”, he said.

Headmaster James Bentley welcomed and thanked many people associated with the project. He also welcomed the headmaster and associate headmaster of Auckland Grammar School and the headmaster of Mt Albert Grammar School, as well as principals of Catholic colleges.

Mr Bentley described the chapel, which cost an estimated $3million, as “a magnificent building which makes a statement for all to see about what we believe in and what we stand for. This chapel will be a place of worship, not just for our students and staff, but for our wider community”.

Gary Lawson, of Stevens Lawson Architects, said it was an emotional day for him.

“To design a place of worship, as a Catholic, has involved a deep personal journey and a spiritual growth that I don’t think I quite expected. It is a rare privilege when one’s vocation can grow your faith and . . . truly merge with your life,” he said.

“Our aspiration for the Chapel of St Peter has been to create a building which inspires, encourages worship and helps establish in each boy a life-lasting relationship with Our Lord.

“We are all very proud of the project.”

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Reading in jail – the ballad of a volunteer

My interview with Josephite Sister Josepha O’Connor had to be squeezed between her morning Age Concern exercises and meeting at Quillan Court, where she lives in Whanganui. This busy 90-year-old retired on December 17 after teaching literacy for six years at Whanganui’s men’s prison. Twice a week, she drove to this minimum-to-high security corrections facility 10 minutes south of the city.

“It was really sad to hear the security gate shut behind me for the last time, but it was time to step back. Age had caught up with me. And that was it,” she said.

She recalled her first few days of going through the security entry points at the main entrance.

“Metal bars in my shoes would set off the alert beepers. From then on, I would always use . . . old, black, soft saggy shoes. I called them my prison shoes! No problems again,” she said.

Shifting from Wellington in 2013, where she’d been the prison chaplain at Arohata Women’s prison, combined with 72 years of teaching, pastoral ministry and a strong conviction that reading is everyone’s right, made her an extraordinary volunteer.

“I had been invited to a Howard League day for Penal Reform at Whanganui’s prison and from there became a volunteer of the prison programmes department,” she said.

She assisted 24 men all up for different lengths of time, on a one-to-one basis for an hour in an interview room off the visiting area. Calling her “Miss”, the men were always cheerful and grateful. They were there to work. Never once did she feel intimated or frightened.

“The man across the table was never a prisoner to me, but someone seeking literacy help. Double sounds, triple blends, vowels and consonants flowed freely. Capitals, full-stops, punctuation [were] most important. So many laughs. Times when a swear word would roll off the tongue — an apology following close behind. So in ear
nest to get things right, to improve, to read!”

Maia Williams, principal of St Marcellin’s Catholic primary school, loaned Sr Josepha many books and educational resources, selecting books at individual reading levels and specifically topics geared to the outdoors that would interest the men.

At the end of most sessions, they would start chatting about general day-to-day things and they always enjoyed a laugh.

“Any new planting in my garden? How was the river looking? Had I walked around the lake of late? But when Shrapnel — my cat — died, one took it personally saying ‘I can’t read today Miss. I’m too upset’,” she said.

A special bond formed between Sr Josepha and the men that she now misses. “

I liked these men. They endeared themselves to me and I may have endeared myself to them too,” she said.

She is a great encourager, so it not surprising that her parting comment to her students before leaving was to keep up their reading and remember to stop at the full-stops!

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A different kind of Holy Week

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said this year’s Holy Week celebrations may be different but can be “a time of great blessing”.

“I’m very conscious that on Palm Sunday, we are moving into Holy Week. And it’s certainly going to be a different kind of Holy Week, with none of the large gatherings and the beautiful liturgies that we usually associate at this time of the year,” he said in a video recorded at the Pompallier Diocesan Centre and posted on St Patrick Cathedral’s Facebook page.

“But instead, it is going to be a personal private journey as it is for many people at different times. “

Bishop Dunn said on Palm Sunday Mass and a Good Friday liturgy, will be broadcast on Shine TV, channel 25 on Freeview (Channel 201 on Sky TV).

The Palm Sunday Mass will be shown on Sunday at 1.35 pm while the Good Friday liturgy will be at 8.30 am on that channel.

Bishop Dunn also announced there will be a 3 pm national Catholic liturgy available in all the websites of the different dioceses of New Zealand.

Each diocese had already linked resources such as prayers and reflections on their websites for Holy Week.

“I pray that Holy Week this year will be a time of  special blessing and I wish you a very happy Easter even if we are going to celebrate it in our bubbles and in the middle of a pandemic. Our forebears in faith endured similar challenges and survived and flourished. And I’m sure, we will, too. So, God bless you all,” Bishop Dunn said.

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Six centuries of professed religious life celebrated

More than six centuries of religious life by seven Sisters of Mercy and three Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart were celebrated on February 29.

In welcoming the jubilarians and guests to a Mass of celebration at Mercy Parklands in Auckland, Sr Sheryl James, RSM, said “we give thanks for a total of 675 years of religious life”.

The jubilarians were Josephite Sisters Louise O’Kane (80 years professed), Sr Colleen Story (65 years) and Marie McGreevy (65 years). The Mercy Sisters having jubilees were Srs Gwenda Williams (70 years), Paulinus Karl (70 years), Mary Molloy (70 years), Maureen O’Brien (65 years), Frances Stewart (65 years), Kate Franich (65 years) and Valerie Gunnion (60 years). All were at the Mass except Sr Mary Molloy, who was not well enough to attend.

Sr Sheryl said it was a real privilege to celebrate and honour “these amazing women who have given service to God”.

“Each jubilarian sister [of those who live at Mercy Parklands] holds a special place in the heart of our staff and the other residents,” she said.

Sr Sheryl noted that, when the question of the celebration of the jubilees came up, the jubilarians decided that they live together and therefore they wanted to celebrate as community — not separately as Mercies and Josephites.

Sr Sheryl thanked the Josephite Sisters present for choosing Mercy Parklands for their sisters, “so that they can continue their ministry, which I think is very important, of praying for the sick and enriching the lives of those they come in contact with each day”.

Responding later, Sr Jill McLoughlin, RSJ, recalled her congregation’s “painful decision” to close their rest home and hospital in Mission Bay last year. She expressed her gratitude that “our sisters have been able to come here” and that one was able to go to St Catherine’s in Ponsonby.

Sr Sheryl said that “over the last few days, I have had this image of two women enjoying each other’s company and having a good cup of tea and sharing stories of you all. Perhaps this image is of Catherine McAuley and [St] Mary MacKillop? I am sure they are smiling on us as we celebrate these wahine tapu, the holy women, who today join together and allow us to celebrate how they have touched [the] lives of many people in New Zealand”.

Msgr Bernard Kiely, the main celebrant at the Mass, also mentioned Catherine McAuley and Mary MacKillop, noting that the latter was born just two months after the former had died.

“I wonder if, in heaven, the Lord was sort of rearranging things and wondering who will be the next one to take on the baton?” Msgr Kiely noted that these two women had a lot in common — being “brave, courageous, going against the tide, having huge battles, including, dare I say, with the hierarchy, and surviving”.

These women have seen great need and have responded wholeheartedly, he said.

“Imagine the meeting of those two women in heaven,” Msgr Kiely said, “the discussing of the dream, the difficulties and challenges that they faced and hopefully the great satisfaction that they were able to reflect on to see the vision continuing. Long may it last.”

He said he was “sort of in awe of the years we come to honour, the women and the dreams that they have shared of their founders by responding to the call”.

“I can only imagine the number of people in the Church who have been touched by the combined ministry of the Sisters of St Joseph and the Sisters of Mercy. I pray you know our thanksgiving and our encouragement.”

At one point in the Mass, the names of deceased Mercy and Josephite sisters who would have celebrated 80, 70, 65 and 60 years professed this year were read out and candles were lit. In the foyer of the facility, a display board had photos and brief write-ups of the jubilarians’ lives as religious.

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Catholic prayer app launched in NZ

You often hear “there’s an app for that!”

Now New Zealand Catholics have an app for prayers with the launch of the NZpray2day app for their Android mobile phones.

The Church’s National Centre for Religious Studies (NCRS) — part of Te Kupenga-Catholic Leadership Institute — announced on March 11 the launch of “NZpray2day” on Google Play for Android devices.

NCRS director Colin MacLeod said “NZpray2day” is designed to support young and old in Catholic schools and parishes to enter simply into the richness of the ancient Christian cycle of seasons, saints and readings.

“It’s not an exhaustive source of all information in these areas,” Mr MacLeod said.

“But rather, it takes ‘snapshots’ and encourages people to seek a moment to reflect, pray and respond. It also brings in pieces of history to link this liturgical journey with aspects of the story of
New Zealand and the wider world.”

So far NZpray2day is only available for Android devices; simply go to Google Play Store, search for NZpray2day, and install. But it could be available for Apple devices by mid-year. Mr MacLeod said the app is free — and is a gift to people from the National Centre for Religious Studies.

“We hope it will be an inviting and useful tool for individual, class and staff prayer in schools, and for whānau and parishioners throughout Aotearoa and abroad,” he said.

Mr MacLeod added that the project has been a major labour of love and “was deceptively complicated to create”. He gave special acknowledgment to Jo Bell and Pierre Schmits as primary writer and designer on the NCRS team.

“Our simple hope is that . . . NZpray2day helps people become more easily aware of the gentle cycle of days and months which link us to creation, the life of Jesus and the shared journey of the Church. It is a journey we walk together.”

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SVDP extends commitment to environment

by MICHAEL FITZSIMONS

For the first time, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has included a commitment to caring for the environment as an integral part of its strategic plan for the next five years.

Caring for the planet is an essential part of living the Gospel today, said John Kennedy-Good, leader of the society’s social justice outreach.

“Vincentians are committed to living sustainably and responding to the challenges outlined in Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home. In the words of the Pope: ‘Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience.’”

Mr Kennedy-Good said the society will be asking young Vinnies to take the lead in developing a strategy for practical action in living sustainably and caring for the environment. Conference
members of the society will be invited to engage with that strategy.

“We will be encouraging all conference members to reflect on the Pope’s message in Laudato Si’ and to discuss ways they can respond as conferences and as individuals.” Mr Kennedy-Good said the society is well-placed to be an authentic voice advocating against wastefulness in New Zealand’s consumerist society.

“We are striving to be a leader in recycling second-hand goods through our extensive network of shops. We also want to reduce waste by improving sorting methods, expanding recycling opportunities and educating donors.”

Respect for the environment sits alongside respect for people in the society’s thinking, Mr Kennedy-Good said.

“We have to find the commitment and courage to act in this area, just as we do to be close to those who are vulnerable and lonely. We must move beyond words and take action to reduce our carbon

footprint and live sustainably. “Pope Francis puts it very powerfully: ‘The earth itself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor’.

“It is not an option to sit on the sidelines and do nothing while the overwhelming scientific consensus is that humankind is having a devastating impact on the environment in which we live.”

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Cardinal vicar of Rome hospitalised with Covid-19

ROME (CNS) – Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the papal vicar for Rome, was hospitalised after testing positive for the Covid-19 virus, the Diocese of Rome announced.

“After showing some symptoms” on March 30, the 66-year-old cardinal was tested, the diocese said; when the test came back positive, he was hospitalised at the Church-owned Gemelli hospital.

“He has a fever, but his general condition is good, and he has begun anti-viral therapy,” the diocesan statement said.

Those who have been working in close contact with Cardinal De Donatis are in preventive self-isolation, it added.

According to Vatican News, the cardinal had very few meetings in recent days and “declared that he had not been at the Vatican” since the coronavirus outbreak began; instead, he has maintained “only telephone contact with the pontiff”.

While the Pope is the bishop of the Diocese of Rome, the papal vicar exercises most of the powers of a local bishop and presides over a vicariate with most of the usual offices found in the chancery of a large archdiocese, including a diocesan Caritas and offices for personnel, religious education and ecumenism.

“I, too, am living this trial,” Cardinal De Donatis said in a statement on March 30. “I trust the Lord and the support of the prayers of all of you, dear faithful of the church of Rome.”

“I am living this moment as an occasion providence has given me to share the suffering of many of our brothers and sisters,” he said. “I offer my prayers for you, for the entire diocesan community and for the inhabitants of the city of Rome.”

CNS Photo

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