The Catholic Diocese of Auckland celebrated its 175th birthday on June 20.
During a homily at a Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral on the anniversary, Auckland Bishop Stephen Lowe looked back at the origins of the diocese.
He noted that the story of the Catholic faith in this land started before any bishops or priests arrived. Bishop
Lowe recalled that early settlers Thomas and Mary Poynton travelled to Australia and asked for priests. And Maori Katekita (catechists) were trained overseas and returned here to spread the faith.
Bishop Pompallier and the first priests arrived in 1838. At the time, Bishop Pompallier was Vicar-Apostolic of Western Oceania. This territory included Melanesia, Micronesia and New Zealand, which was a “huge territory”, Bishop Lowe noted. New Zealand became a vicariate in 1842.
Bishop Pompallier wanted New Zealand split into two dioceses, and he got his wish on June 20, 1848, when the Catholic Diocese of Auckland and the Catholic Diocese of Wellington were erected. The latter covered the lower half of the North Island and the whole South Island.
Bishop Lowe referred to the biography of Bishop Philippe-Joseph Viard, SM, which explained that Bishop Viard, who was then the coadjutor vicar-apostolic of New Zealand, did not hear about the formation of the new dioceses, and his own appointment as Apostolic Administrator of Wellington, until seven months later, when official letters arrived.
“The people didn’t know they had been formed into a diocese until seven months later. It was one of the challenges of that time,” Bishop Lowe said.
But the mission of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland then was the same as it is now – to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, the bishop added.
“As we heard in the Gospel today, that Good News is for everybody . . . We are called to love our neighbour, even to the point of loving our enemies, and that is still the mission of the Diocese of Auckland.”
Bishop Lowe noted the generosity of the Catholic people of France in supporting the first missionaries and their mission for so long.
“And that too is our call – to be generous, not just for our own needs in Auckland, but for the mission of the Church throughout the world.”
“The diocese of Auckland is in a blessed position in so many ways,” Bishop Lowe continued, “and yet, at the same time, we have so many struggles and challenges. But that is nothing new under the sun, it has always been like that over the last 175 years.”
“As we celebrate this day, it is a day, to use the words of Pope John Paul II, to remember the past with gratitude, to embrace the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence, knowing that this mission is a mission that has been given to us by Christ, and he promised that he will be with us until the end of time.”