by ANNE STEAD
KAIKOHE — Members of far-flung Taitokerau parishes assembled again this year in Kaikohe for the Bishop’s Forum, led by Bishop Patrick Dunn and his diocesan team.
Bishop Dunn said he sees the forum as a model for the diocese.
This year’s focus was the 2014 Diocesan Pastoral Plan, that seeks to implement the call of Pope Francis to mission — individual and collective. Bishop Dunn explained that whereas
previous plans focused on youth, evangelisation, and building strong parishes, “now it is time to make the 1950s model more mission-effective. Baptism calls us to be mission-minded, for example helping and engaging school families, moving forward rather than staying still.” He suggested renaming parish pastoral councils as parish mission councils, and using the two mission-focused Mass dismissals could sharpen the focus.
God’s chosen, not God’s frozen
Our responses should reflect social change and historical events, he said.
We are called to be God’s chosen, not God’s frozen!
A drive through Three Kings can cross 12 parishes in 10 minutes!
Christchurch lost one third of its churches.
How do we meet the needs of increasingly diverse ethnic parish communities?
Our school liturgies are now the only Church experience for many Catholic school students. How can we involve them, and therefore their families, in attending Mass?
Electronic communication is the key.
Bishop Dunn referred to the haka for the recent meeting of Oceania bishops on YouTube (13,000 hits) and the Eucharistic Convention website (1 million a year). Those relatively small examples are a fraction of electronic communications potential.
Bishop Dunn said the plan needs to be simple, concise, essentially portable to enable and enhance long-term implementation. Diocesan education initiatives are in place to support parish mission projects.
Ite missa est — the mission begins Parish groups discussed current and future initiatives. Their feedback reflects the challenges met by northern parishes of the diocese, in particular
the isolated, remote rural Far North communities.
Long distances across each Far North parish shape pragmatic responses characterised by the work of individuals and their families. Those range from focusing on Mass attenders and their
needs, tangi and unveiling ceremonies, supporting non-Catholics in the community, providing safe haven for those returning to rural areas, the gathering of food to give to a local foodbank.
Three Marist Brothers will soon trial a return to Kaikohe, based at St Anthony’s Church, to mentor secondary school students and work with at-risk teenagers. The three month trial will be reviewable.
Marist Sisters are moving from Waitaruke to Kaikohe to support the wives and partners of prisoners at Ngawha.
This complements the existing outreach to Northern Correctional Facility inmates through the work of Catholic chaplain Gwen Tahana, who found the forum exciting and uplifting.
Whangarei parish works on enabling parishioners to be part of parish vision, creating a welcoming Christ-centred community. Priorities include keeping its outlying parishes connected, empowering laity through a multiplicity of designated roles, and sustaining the
involvement of Catholic schools within the parish. The weekly distribution of lunches to low-decile schools, and food parcels and school vege garden produce to families in need, characterises practical outreach initiatives.
Collaboration through communication emerged as a key priority. The parish website is ripe for development and expansion. It has exciting potential, for example as an interactive parishioner forum re-engaging young adults with their faith.
Parishioners at the forum travelled from Kaitaia, Hokianga, the Bay of Islands, mid-North, Dargaville, Whangarei and Wellsford.