By Carolyn Moynihan
Some 300 people from around New Zealand gathered in Auckland with the prelate of Opus Dei, Monsignor Fernando Ocariz, on August 26. A visit from “the Father”, as the prelate is called in the Opus Dei family, is a rare event in this country, the previous one being in 2008.
“I give thanks to God for being in this land which is so far from Rome,” he said. “But we are always very united together precisely because we are united in God. From here you can help the whole world and from all over the world they will help you through the communion of saints.”
The get-together took place at the Hyundai Marine Sports Centre on Auckland’s waterfront, where Msgr Ocariz was welcomed with a karanga performed by Briar Cornwall. He was briefly invested with a korowai, and those present then sang the hymn Ka Waiata Ki A Maria. He then took his place on a podium framed by whakairo panels.
In a short opening address, Msgr Ocariz reminded those gathered of some basic features of Opus Dei’s spirit and apostolate, starting with the sanctification of ordinary life and the centrality of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
“The life of our Lord in Nazareth was an ordinary mainstream life, growing up with his friends and of course his Mother,” the prelate pointed out. Yet all the Lord’s activities in those years were “already beginning the redemption of the world”.
“God depends on us to introduce others to the Christian life,” Msgr Ocariz continued. “The love of God leads us to love others and this brings joy,” he said, adding that “we can be happy always, even with suffering.” In some instances this might seem impossible, “but with the grace of God it is possible.”
He was no doubt thinking of one of his “daughters”, the mother of a young Waikato family, who has aggressive brain cancer, and other members who have children with serious disabilities. During his visit “the Father” met personally with sick and frail members, telling them he counted on their prayers.
Questions from the floor highlighted some familiar themes: the sense of being beloved children of God, daily struggles with time and cheerfulness, raising children in the faith and freedom, and apostolate.
Asked how the family of Opus Dei in New Zealand could help each other and grow, Msgr Ocariz urged members to pray for each other, to understand people’s worth with their virtues and their talents, to rejoice in the good of others, and to “make their difficulties and sorrows our own”.
This is authentic love, he remarked. “This is the way to serve the Church.” He concluded by asking all to pray for Pope Francis and for his intentions.
Msgr Ocariz’s visit to New Zealand came at the end of an apostolic trip that began on July 25 and included the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia. It was a demanding tour for the 79-year-old prelate, lightened by some days of rest (and a game or two of tennis) in Australia, the family spirit of local centres, warm welcomes at airports and entertainment at gatherings.
Opus Dei began its apostolate in New Zealand in 1989. Greywood and Rimbrook centres were established in Hamilton with the approval of the late Bishop Edward Gaines, followed by Glenrowan and Fernhall centres in Auckland and a rural retreat house at Waignaro. The centres provide and coordinate a wide range of activities in the areas of spiritual and doctrinal formation, character building and service.
Currently there are around 100 members of Opus Dei in New Zealand, the great majority of whom are married people.
Carolyn Moynihan is a member of Opus Dei