by ROWENA OREJANA
PALMERSTON NORTH — Holy Week celebrations in New Zealand were largely “meaningful” and “enriching” despite the many distractions offered by the secular world.
At the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, parishioners said they found the Easter celebrations “amazing”.
Bishop Charles Drennan said the Chrism Mass drew people from across Palmerston North.
“Our Wairoa people travel for four hours to be with their pihopa [bishop] and diocesan family of faith and a good number of college students were present this year, too. The prayers over the oils are very moving and the people’s witness is very heartwarming,” he
The bishop said the work of the Easter season is Baptism. “Palmerston North has a pastoral day for priests, parish workers and college chaplains. One of our foci is Baptism. No preference student should leave a Catholic school denied the wonder of being an adopted child of God,” he said.
Catholic tertiary chaplain and Young Adult minister Mary-Grace Williams said the whole week was enriching.
“Our congregations were multicultural and our liturgies full of old and new prayer,” she said.
Meantime, celebrations at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Auckland had been “epic”, said cathedral administrator Msgr Bernard Kiely, with an estimated 12,000 people participating between Palm and Easter Sundays.
The Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, which processed around the inner city, was followed by about 2000 people.
“Too many people have turned up for us to all fit in the cathedral,” said one of the event organisers.
The cathedral also saw 30 people baptised into the faith. An estimated 200 people were baptised in Auckland. Although some attribute increased interest in the Catholic faith to Pope Francis’s popularity, the “Francis effect” has not had a quantifiable impact in the country yet.
Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said he believed the “Francis effect” is in New Zealand, but he is not sure if it is having any results. Mass counts, he noted, remained stable.
“There’s a freshness about his approach which people like. I think people are quite proud of the positive media,” he said.