After 18 months as chief executive of Te Kupenga Catholic Leadership Institute, Dr Areti Metuamate has resigned from the role, because of family commitments.
“My wife is Aboriginal Australian. We have a blended family across Australia and New Zealand, and Covid has had a huge impact on us being able to see family on both sides,” he said.
Dr Metuamate, whose initial contract was for two years, said he had thought deeply about the matter, weighing things such as what more he could do for the organisation against the needs of his family.
“My family, of course, is my number one priority,” he said. Dr Metuamate’s resignation had been accepted by the Te Kupenga board in May.
Dr Metuamate said he will be sad not to oversee the transfer of the Catholic Theological College from its present premises to the St Columba Centre on Vermont St, Ponsonby.
“It’s probable that they’ll move by the end of the year or the start of next year. Of course, I won’t be here to see the fruit of our work,” he said, as he recalled the many meetings and discussions with architects and bishops, as well as with the bishops’ finance committee.
Dr Metuamate said that, when he was appointed in December, 2019, he was told that his job was to bring three distinct organisations — Good Shepherd College, The Catholic Institute, and the Nathaniel Centre — under one umbrella.
“I think we’ve done a really good job there. Not just me, but the many people who have helped,” he said. “All the bishops, our staff and key people in the diocese have all helped to bring together Te Kupenga.”
He said they were able to come up with consistent policies across the board for staff, as well as working on a budget and getting an understanding of the new organisation’s finances and revenues.
“We had the responsibility of making sure that we were not asking the bishops for too much money, and finding other ways to bring in revenue to make the organisation work and [be] strong,” he said.
The pandemic had impacted the finances of the new organisation in its first year, but Dr Metuamate said that things are looking better this year.
“We are very hopeful for the student numbers going forward,” he said. “We’ve already had some indication that there is an increase in the number of students in some of our programmes. That was not the case last year.”
Dr Metuamate said that he spent the last year building the profile and brand of Te Kupenga, so that it is recognised by people across the country. He visited about 25 schools in the last 18 months.
Dr Metuamate said that, although he has resigned, he has promised to support the organisation, as well as work on some of the projects that they have started.
One of the projects he is currently working on is the history of Māori Catholics.
“I get asked a lot, when I travel around the country, about the Māori history of the Church, the key Māori Catholic people and what they’ve done,” he said. “What I realised is we don’t have a lot of resources available for schools, for parish leaders and even for our students here at Te Kupenga.”
He said the project is under way, with Auckland University researcher Dr Rowan Light leading it.
“This is one of the projects I’ll carry on doing, even when I finish in my role at Te Kupenga, and I’ll do that voluntarily,” he said.
Dr Metuamate said he is confident he is leaving the organisation in good hands.
“[The Te Kupenga staff] are doing good work for the Church and for the community. And I’m so proud of them for continuing to find ways to reach out and connect to people across the country, especially the communities that are struggling,” he said.