A new statue of Our Lady of Peace imported from Italy is now in the Chapel of Our Lady in Howick’s parish church after being blessed and commissioned by Bishop Michael Gielen on July 19.
The four-foot high statue, carved and hand-painted, was gifted to Our Lady Star of the Sea parish by a family that wishes to remain anonymous.
The statue arrived in this country by sea just a few weeks before the lockdown, and the blessing and commissioning by Bishop Gielen was originally scheduled for May 3, but that had to be put back by a couple of months.
At the start of the July 19 Mass, in front of a packed church, the statue was processed to just in front of the sanctuary, while a Maori welcome was given. During the Mass, the statue and bishop and the priests on the altar were bedecked in Pasifika floral lei (garlands).
In his homily, Bishop Gielen said it is wonderful that parish priest Fr John Fitzmaurice and the parish strongly emphasise devotion to Our Lady.
“We have lost a bit of our devotion to her over the years,’” Bishop Gielen said. “It is something we have to work on.”
“Each of us can commit ourselves to a devotion to Our Blessed Mother, asking her to intercede for us.”
Bishop Gielen referred to a seer at one of the world’s Marian shrines being requested to ask Our Lady about the problem of family members and children who no longer practise their faith.
As an aside, he remarked: “If I was to say, what is the greatest suffering I have seen as a . . . priest . . . I would say that the number one thing that people speak most of, the number one heartache in their lives is not financial, not physical, not political, but is relational. Their families and children don’t practise their faith any more. That really eats at them.”
The seer asked Our Lady, “what do we do with our children, . . . this is such a difficult and challenging reality for us?” Bishop Gielen continued.
She said: ‘Give them to me, give them to me and I will look after them. Do as my Son tells you, because I know his heart.”
Bishop Gielen continued: “We are going to give our parish to our Blessed Mother . . . “
“Our Blessed Mother, we ask that you will remind us again of Jesus’ love for us,” he added.
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Gielen said that, given what is happening in the world today, it is very fitting to call on Our Lady as Our Lady of Peace.
The statue, having been blessed and commissioned, at the end of Mass it was taken to the chapel, where there were also prayers.
Fr Fitzmaurice told the congregation that the smaller statue of Our Lady that had been in the chapel has been “carefully stored”. According to a parish newsletter, it will be placed in a yet-to-be-constructed, protected, outdoor stone grotto “out on the north-western side of the church” . . . “for parishioners and visitors to visit and pray there in the surrounds of our beautifully kept cemetery”. Another parishioner is going to gift a bench to be at the grotto for people to sit on. Fr Fitzmaurice said donations would be welcome to help build the grotto.