by ROWENA OREJANA
Almost 60 years of responsibility for New Zealand by the Irish Capuchin friars ended after responsibility for the community here was transferred to the St Fidelis province of North India.
The transfer of responsibility was made during the Pacific Asian Capuchin Conference meeting of the major superiors of the Pacific Region. The conference was held from February 29 to March 4, 2016.
Fr Paul Helsham, OFM Cap, told NZ Catholic this was a major event in the week-long meeting.
“It was a major event because it was emotional especially for the New Zealand friars. We were taught by the Irish and the last Irish friar here is Fr Matthew Clerkin,” Fr Helsham explained. “But it is good that there will be a Capuchin presence here in New Zealand. And that’s the main thing. It will keep us going.”
The Capuchin Fraternity of Aotearoa New Zealand was founded in 1958 at the invitation of the late Cardinal Peter McKeefry.
Fr Helsham is also part of a new leadership team that was put in place.
“We’re known now as the provincial delegation of New Zealand. Our new provincial delegate is Fr Sebastian Fernandes, myself and Fr Gregory Lakra from Wellington,” he said.
Capuchin superiors from Japan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, four provinces in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor –Leste attended the conference. Brother Victorius Dwiardy, who represents the Pacific Asia Capuchins in their general council in Rome, also attended the conference.
Brother Jonathan Williams, OFM Cap, said “the spirit of brotherhood, because that was Francis of Assisi’s special gift”, is one quality that the order brings to each country where they have a presence.
“[We have]… a certain intensity of personal and communal prayer that is part of the Capuchin tradition, prayer that leads to action and regenerated again through the prayer life of the brothers,” said Br Williams, who has been in Papua New Guinea for 35 years.
He said the conference was meant to “simply share our ideas and support one another”.