by Mina Amso
It was a doubly special Pentecost Sunday for the newly-formed Christchurch South Parish.
Parishioners finally returned to two of their four churches for Mass after about two months of the churches being closed. It was also officially the beginning of the new parish.
“It was a wonderful celebration. To see the parishioners again after so long,” said parish priest Fr Peter Head, SM.
The parish of Christchurch South is made up of two previous parishes — Sancta Maria (Addington and Beckenham) and Our Lady Queen of the Apostles (Hoon Hay and Halswell). The Carmelite Monastery is also in the new parish.
Sacred Heart church in Addington, Sts Peters and Paul church in Halswell, and the Carmelite Monastery chapel were opened to the public on Pentecost Sunday.
Fr Head said parishioners who attended Mass expressed how grateful they were to be able to return.
“An expression of gratitude that they could be back in the church with the priest and together to celebrate the Eucharist. Secondly, an opportunity to receive Holy Communion again,” Fr Head said.
He said it was still a challenge to connect with all his parishioners given the restrictions still in place, namely the 100-person limit at public gatherings, and the fact that a number of senior parishioners decided to stay at home.
Extra Mass times were added to accommodate the limited number of people per service.
“The focus [in conversations] was more on [the parishioners] and how they were and how things were for them. And they were interested in asking how we were. That’s understandable after so long,” Fr Head said.
He said he couldn’t open all four churches at once due to the management that was required for reopening.
“Having the churches commercially cleaned [was in order] to meet all the requirements expected of us with regards to setting up the churches for the health and safety for all concerned.”
In a pastoral letter, which was read out during Mass to all the parishes in Christchurch on Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Paul Martin, SM, reminded people of the significance of the day.
“We have received this same Holy Spirit. We have received this same mission to go out and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. The life of God dwells in us, giving us the strength and power to be his witnesses in our world.”
He noted the establishment of the new parishes for the Christchurch and Selwyn areas.
The 12 previous parishes have now amalgamated into five: North, South, East, West and Selwyn areas.
“My prayer is that this day marks the beginning of new life and grace in each of our hearts, in our faith communities and in our diocese. Please pray for the new parishes that come into existence today and for all our parishes, that the Holy Spirit will inspire us, all the members, to work together for the mission to which we are called.”
Speaking of Christchurch South Parish, Fr Head told NZ Catholic that “there’s no way” they could maintain four community churches plus the Carmelite monastery in the future.
“I am in total agreement with Bishop Paul and his vision for the future.”
He said the signalled move from maintenance to mission is the way to bring life and vitality to the Church, which typically sees more senior parishioners attend in the area.
Fr Head said work on the amalgamation slowed down due to the pandemic, and the focus now is to reconnect with parishioners.
“The consultation and discussion has all gone on hold because of the situation we are living in . . . the key aspect is our parishioners . . . with regard to the building of the new church and what is required, well look, that will come into focus once a number of other things have been addressed with the parishioners.”