by MICHAEL OTTO
AUCKLAND — Pilgrimages to the Hokianga in 2013 to mark the 175th anniversary of the first Mass said in New Zealand, an outdoor Mass at a significant venue and a concerted effort by older Catholics to reconnect with young people were among Auckland suggestions in late June for the Year of Faith.
The suggestions arose at meetings of diocesan and parish leaders.
Bishop Patrick Dunn, the Auckland Diocesan Pastoral Council and city parish leaders met at St Mary’s College, Ponsonby, on June 30, and a meeting of Tai Tokerau parish representatives took place a week earlier.
Participants were told that planning is already under way for a significant celebration in the Hokianga in Northland on January 12-13 next year, to mark the first Mass said in New Zealand by Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier in 1838.
Draft plans for the celebrations envisage a Saturday evening Mass at Totara Point, followed by Benediction, with pilgrims then being hosted by various marae. On the Sunday, a Mass at Tamatea Marae at Motuti is planned.
The celebrations will be promoted in parishes, and donations sought to cover costs.
Speakers at the Auckland meeting talked of changes in the local Church in terms of the age and ethnicity of the people.
A senior lecturer in history at Massey University, Professor Peter Lineham, outlined Catholic trends evident from last year’s Church Life Survey, in which about one third of Auckland parishes participated.
Professor Lineham said the Catholic Church, being a universal church, is more open to new migrants than other denominations. People in Auckland parishes also show a high sense of belonging to the Church. But the Catholic Church in Auckland faces the challenge of finding new ways of communicating in different languages and cultural contexts.
Rates of small group membership and participation in mission activities in parishes are dropping. A growing proportion of Auckland Catholics also take the Bible literally.
Bishop Dunn painted a picture of the ethnic diversity of Auckland, its parishes and its clergy. He also said that the
population of the diocese is forecast to grow by more than 1 million people in the next two decades.
“The emerging world Church is here,” Bishop Dunn said.
Many parishes suggested a major outdoor Mass to mark the Year of Faith, either in the Domain or at Alexandra Park — which have both hosted outdoor Masses before.
Reconnecting with youth was another common theme.
Among the dozens of Year of Faith suggestions were: “Throw away the TV for one night a week and pray or do something which nourishes your faith” (South Hokianga).
“All religious to return to wearing a habit for the Year of Faith” (Eastern Region).