The Catholic Diocese of Auckland performed better than expected in 2020 in terms of mission, as well as financially, despite two major lockdowns last year as the country was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the first of series of Bishop’s Forums to be held around the diocese, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn expressed his appreciation of the priests and parishioners, and those who worked in the schools, for everything they had managed to do last year. The first 2021 forum was held at the St Joseph’s Church (Takapuna) hall on May 5.
“Covid reminded us very dramatically that we’re a global village and we’re all interconnected,” Bishop Dunn said. “Pope Francis would tell us that this is an opportunity to dream and create a better world.”
He said the lockdowns meant other ways to evangelise were sought.
“We’ve decided to continue with the Sunday afternoon Masses on Shine TV. One of the things we found was that people who can’t get to Mass really appreciated them,” he said. “It’s one of those Covid discoveries which made us much more aware of the need to use these new means to help evangelise.”
Auckland diocese general manager James van Schie also reported that the diocese’s financial performance last year was better than expected.
“Our financial performance was better than anticipated, thanks to a
strong recovery in the investment markets later in the year,” he said.
Mr van Schie also announced the creation of the Harold Plumley Endowment which he described as an “inter-generational endowment”.
“One of the key big steps we have taken in 2020 to help shore up the diocese is the creation of the Harold Plumley Endowment in recognition of an extraordinary bequest that the diocese received from a very generous benefactor,” he said.
“What has happened . . . is that the donor, in this case, asked the bishop to preserve the capital, and use distributions from the fund to support the life of the Church into the future.”
He said that, already, the endowment has helped in the building of the new St Luke’s church in Flat Bush, and has helped in funding the $3.1 million gtransitional housing project on the North Shore to boost De Paul House’s offerings. The fund will also assist in the establishment of St Ignatius of Loyola College in Drury, a diocesan school to be run in the Jesuit tradition.
Mr van Schie also thanked the Tindall Foundation, a private, philanthropic, (North Shore) family foundation, that has supported the Catholic Caring Foundation for the last 20 years.
Mr van Schie said that 80 per cent of the diocese’s assets are in property.
“There will likely be continuing, careful and gradual changes around our infrastructure as demographics shift, and we look at new ways to serve the mission of Jesus Christ,” he said.
He expressed sadness at the closure of St Luke’s in Bayswater, but provided assurance that the mission of that parish will be continued by its namesake in Flat Bush.
He said there are major challenges ahead, such as the remediation and repair of St Anne’s church in Manurewa, as well as the redevelopment of the St Patrick’s Cathedral Pastoral Centre.
Auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen spoke about his first year as bishop, thanking the parishioners of the Auckland diocese for the warm welcome he received.
He said that Covid had shown him “how hard it is to be a trainee bishop when you have no congregation”.
He admitted to being afraid when he was first told that he was to be an auxiliary bishop, but trust in the Lord had pulled him through.
Pastoral and Evangelisation leader Sr Sian Owen, RSJ, spoke briefly about the diocesan mission map, stressing that it is not a “strategic” plan, but one about mission.
“The most important words in this plan are ‘we will’. The difference (to the other plans) is we will be doing it together.”
Bishop Dunn also revealed that 16 of the 18 men recommended by their parish priests are discerning becoming permanent deacons.
He also reflected on the three core doctrines that underlie the mission, which are that of Incarnation, Resurrection and the real presence in the Eucharist.