St Luke’s parish in Flat Bush in east Auckland is the first territorial parish to be canonically erected in 40 years in Auckland diocese.
The occasion was acknowledged at a Mass at Sancta Maria College’s hall on October 18, a date which is usually the feast day of St Luke the evangelist.
As Auckland auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen looked out at the multi-cultural congregation at the start of Mass, he said that what he beheld was “an incredible sight, for us all to be gathered here today as one”.
“Throughout the world, we are one of the very few countries that can do this – and we do thank God for that privilege,” Bishop Gielen said, referring to the Covid-19 restrictions in force in many nations.
He said that Bishop Patrick Dunn was not able to be present, but had sent his “miniature version”.
After the homily, Bishop Gielen and parish priest Fr Craig Dunford read from the formal letter of the canonical erection of the parish, signed by Bishop Dunn.
“After having consulted the presbyteral council of the diocese, we hereby canonically erect a new parish of Christ’s faithful of the diocese of Auckland under the patronage of St Luke,” the letter stated.
“We ask the heavenly [patron] of our new community to keep the parish of St Luke’s under his protection. May the establishment of this parish be, for the entire diocese of Auckland, a privileged occasion to renew its commitment to the Lord and to serve the Church.”
In his homily, Bishop Gielen told the congregation, “welcome to your parish”.
“You have started today a movement that will reverberate for generations to come, that will change people’s lives, that will give people hope, life and joy.”
A parish like St Luke’s is needed more than ever today, and into the future, because of a great challenge facing our society – that of loneliness and isolation, the bishop said, adding that the gathering of the parish today could be seen as “a statement that says, we will stand for community. We will stand for family”.
He invited people to cast their minds back to the parishes in which they had been raised and had come to grow in the faith.
The parish in which he was raised in the faith, St Pius X in Tokoroa, “was the village that helped me grow into the man I am today. And you are going to become the village that helps your people to grow into who they are called to be”.
Bishop Gielen said that the two fundamental aspects of the parish are love of God and love of neighbour. These are “the two antidotes to isolation and loneliness”.
“You are going to find more and more in your life that your neighbour won’t have anyone visiting them. That we are so tempted to stay in front of our TV, to become caught up with our devices, and Our Lord keeps saying – love me and love your neighbour and all will be well with your life. It is as simple as that. That is the core focus of everything.”
The bishop noted that St Luke’s was the first territorial parish to be erected in Auckland diocese for 40 years, and praised the people present for their courage in taking this large step. (NZ Catholic understands other parishes erected, such as Te Whanau Tapu (2008) and the Korean parish (2009) – the latter across the road from St Luke’s – are “personal” parishes canonically, not territorial ones. Eastern rite parishes erected in Auckland are also “personal” and come under eparchies based in Sydney. Ponsonby and Herne Bay parishes merged in 2017.)
“St Paul said we thank God for you, every time we think of you, we think of you with joy,” Bishop Gielen said to the Flat Bush congregation.
The homily also referred to St Luke as a physician and as an artist.
Bishop Gielen recalled that he had received a warm welcome from the parish on previous visits. The parish should be like a doctor’s surgery and should help people to receive the healing love of God.
Bishop Gielen also referred to the tradition that the evangelist painted an image of Our Lady (the image is now in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome).
He noted that the schools on the site bear the name “Sancta Maria – Holy Mary” and the naming of the parish after St Luke was fitting in this sense, given the association between Our Lady and St Luke.
“We now call on the intercession of St Luke and our Blessed Mother.”
The bishop made a plea for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life to come from St Luke’s parish.
He also noted the contribution made in the early years of the St Luke’s community by Fr Ezio Blasoni, SM, who was unable to be present on the day.
During the Mass, the Gospels were processed in by the local Tongan community, and the gifts were presented by the Samoan community. Pupils from Sancta Maria Catholic School performed an item after Communion.