Landmark St Gerard’s church to close

St Gerard's chapel

The Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission in New Zealand announced it is closing the historic St Gerard’s church in Wellington after a final Mass on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

Wellington Cardinal John Dew will celebrate the Mass on behalf of the lay Catholic missionary group, the Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission, which acquired St Gerard’s in 1993 from the Redemptorist order. ICPE stands for the International Catholic Programme of Evangelisation.

ICPE Mission’s New Zealand Director Silvana Abela told NZ Catholic that they felt they had a moral obligation to put people’s safety over all else.

As of now, it is only the church that the group is closing and not the monastery. The church, built in 1908, is more earthquake-prone than the monastery, which was completed in 1932, she explained.

Ms Abela said they are not yet looking for another place for ICPE.

“We’re not there yet. We are still in a process of discernment. We are still praying to see how God will lead us for the future. And in all honesty, I, myself, don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

“Will we keep the monastery? Will we part with it? We don’t know yet. We’re still deciding and we’re in a group prayer.”

The group needed at least $11 million to strengthen the buildings to meet the required building standard. Ms Abela said that, unfortunately, they were not able to raise the sum.

The Covid-19 pandemic last year also affected ICPE Mission’s work, which includes running retreats, seminars, youth weekends and parish missions in Wellington and beyond. This will be the second year that their School of Mission cannot take place because overseas missionaries and students cannot attend.

She said closing the church down was a difficult decision.

“The church has been operating for 113 years. A lot of ministry took place in it. You can imagine all the confessions, all the preaching, sacraments of marriage, the funerals (and) all the baptisms . . . so, it’s very sad for us,” Ms Abela said.

On April 20, the Requiem Mass for one of ICPE’s earliest and most loyal supporters, David Romanos, was held at St Gerard’s.

Fr Michael Bellizzi, who presided at the Mass, said Mr Romanos was a man after God’s heart, who lived “not a passive life, but a life with
emphasis”.

Fr Bellizzi said Mr Romanos and his late wife, Eileen, loved and served the ICPE Mission in New Zealand from the very beginning.

“Together, they extended hospitality and care to so many ICPE missionaries along the years, making sure they could settle down safely and healthily in this country,” he said.

Fr Bellizzi also noted the connection of Mr Romanos to St Gerard’s, saying the Mr Romanos first served as an altar boy in that church in 1948, and later as a choir member in his (Mr Romanos’) teens.

The priest said Mr Romanos was a humble man, who was happy to serve God in hidden ways.

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Rowena Orejana

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