With their school closed and building sold, the Institute for World Evangelisation-ICPE Mission New Zealand has become a “Community of Companions”, living out their charism of worship and evangelisation by getting involved in parish ministries.
The current coordinator of the ICPE New Zealand community, Lucienne Hansen, told NZ Catholic that, without a base, they plan to meet monthly in each other’s homes. Mrs Hansen is also a member of the international leadership team.
“Our beautiful community home is gone, but our call hasn’t changed. We continue to be missionary disciples wherever we are sent. This time, we have been literally sent out,” she said.
She said while the closure of St Gerard’s Monastery in Wellington affected the operation of their school, it was the pandemic and the closing of the borders that struck the hardest blow.
“Most of our school participants came from overseas, so once the borders closed, it was clear that we had to suspend schools until things returned to normal,” Mrs Hansen said.
“The closed borders also meant no full-time missionaries could join our staff to replace those who needed to move on. In the past, the comings and goings of various staff members were a normal part of life at St Gerard’s.”
In the meantime, she said, the deadline for the building’s earthquake strengthening loomed close and “fundraising was proving to be impossible in the current climate”.
“This has brought a definite end to the New Zealand Schools of Mission, although God has a way of surprising us. So, we’ll see what the future brings,” she said.
Mrs Hansen said that some of the members have moved out of St Gerard’s Monastery some time ago, and have established homes and jobs in Wellington.
“For example, my husband and I moved out of St Gerard’s with our boys in 2012, after serving as full-time missionaries for 21 years, first in Germany and later here in Wellington. My husband Rainer now works as a builder, and I am a pastoral minister in the archdiocese,” she said.
She said the sale of St Gerard’s had been bittersweet. The building was finally sold on March 27 by real estate agent James Copeland, whose family had deep ties with the organisation.
“Putting the monastery up for sale was a very hard decision for the international leadership of the ICPE Mission – a decision taken in prayerful discernment over two years,” Mrs Hansen said. “With all its quirks and the discomforts of living in an old, cold building in the Wellington climate, the place became home for the ICPE Mission. Some of us brought up our children there, we have so many special memories.”
She said she believes the building will continue to be a Catholic landmark, and “a visible sign of God’s presence in this place”.
“We are currently in the process of emptying St Gerard’s. We have been able to pass on the many things God provided for us over the years. so that they can continue to be put to good use. It is heart-breaking, but we do this necessary task with a grateful heart,” Mrs Hansen said.
“God gave it to us for a season, and it is now time to let it go.”