The Society of Mary New Zealand is interested in the Ohairu parish project because it presents a certain fit between the Society’s origins and the new-day circumstance.
The comment was made by New Zealand provincial, Fr David Kennerley SM, when talking to a 400 strong crowd from the Ohairu parish meeting at the Uniting Church, Dr Taylor Tce, Johnsonville.
The meeting was called to explain the new model of parish leadership which the Society has agreed to be part of.
Fr Kennerley said that through successive Marist Provincial Chapters the Society has committed itself to working in missionary parishes, and that the Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew has identified St Francis Ohairu parish as one of these.
Calling the model of mission “a fantastic, comprehensive vision” Fr Kennerley said there is a sense that this new model of parish is leading towards something new.
“I simply do not have anyone I can appoint as Parish Priest”
Fr Kennerley indulged the meeting with a short history lesson.
Explaining the Marists came to New Zealand called by laity who had already established the New Zealand Church, “Supporting a new church coming to birth is something that suits us,” he said.
However he warned, “We are not the cavalry”.
“We are also not here for the long haul”.
Clarifying the commitment, he said the Society’s agreement is, for three years to work with a lay-led missionary team.
Fr Kennerley’s comments came as a response to Cardinal John Dew’s earlier address.
Prior to Christmas, Archbishop John Dew appointed Fr Peter Roe SM as the Parish Administrator to work with the new lay team.
“I simply do not have anyone I can appoint as Parish Priest”, he told the meeting.
He said new circumstances meant resurrecting an exciting, far reaching plan previously shelved by the parish.
Describing the new parish team as “adventurous, creative people with initiative to lead the parish in response to community needs”, he thought that along with the support of the Parish Administrator, Fr Peter Roe SM, the St Francis of Assisi Parish, Ohairu “had an even better deal.”
Cardinal Dew noted that the concept of lay led parishes is not new.
Moving the discussion forwards, from a lack of priests to modern day mission, Cardinal Dew referred to a 100 year old document written by Pope Benedict XV.
“If we are not on mission we are not being Catholic”, the former pope wrote.
Cardinal Dew reinforced the comment by saying that of nature the Church is missionary.
“The mission is not about our needs but the needs of others.”
“A church that focusses on itself becomes self-referential”, he said.
Responding to questions, Cardinal Dew said the topic of married priests was on the agenda in Rome, and while progressing the possibility takes time, he remains hopeful the issue will come up again later in the year.
Meanwhile, the cardinal encouraged the parish to think of what it can do itself.
“The Church is no longer priest-centred, the priest doesn’t have to do everything.
“The question for each of us is what contribution can I make”?
Questioned on how he will judge the success of this new team leadership model, the Cardinal was quick to respond, “As I do any activity of the Archdiocese”.
“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trustfulness and self-control are the fruits of the Holy Spirit and if the parish if full of people like this we can say the parish is a success.”