For nearly fifty years David Gledhill a Pakeha Marist priest with Irish ancestry has worked in and around Māori.
Fr Gledhill told RNZ’s Jerome Cvitanovich that over the years the Society’s involvement with Māori has changed from the “Māori Missions”; a mission to convert Māori, to impose a faith and structure, to recognising that when Christ came on earth, he took on all humanity and brought all people to himself.
“We are all contributing to the one mission of Christ”, he said.
“Slowly we start to see the heavenly Father has no favourites and been with the people from the beginning, and in their way they are proclaiming the Good News.”
Fr Gledhill says the Church was wrong to impose its structure on Māori culture, rather it is important to be with the people and see the plan of the Father.
“The Māori do it different…they take it on as Māori.”
“I see the Māori coming as a family to Christ, their way, and I say hell, I’m Irish, there are some good things there and I’d like to have a part of that.”
In the late 1950s David Gledhill joined students from around New Zealand to begin training at the Society of Mary’s seminary in Hawkes Bay – Mount St Mary’s.
His original plan was to volunteer for missionary work overseas. But in his last years of seminary training he was asked to consider staying in New Zealand.
In 1966, shortly after his ordination, his superior sent him a short note advising him of his posting.
“Dear David,” it read. “You are appointed to Hato Paora college. You may do university if you wish. Kind Regards.“
After nearly 50 years of ministry with Māori Fr Gledhill says that once you see the realisation that the Father has no favourites and take part of the ordinary social structures of the Māori you have a great respect for and hope for the future.
Listen to the full RNS conversation with Jerome Cvitanovich