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Pastoral Letter from Cardinal John Dew

The original of this Pastoral Letter can be viewed here.


15 February 2019

Dear Parishioners

In the last few days I have sent your Pastoral Team and leadership group a document which contains a directive. It is very rare that I direct parishes to take a certain action, so this indicates the seriousness of what I am asking of you.

Between 2013 to 2017 the Archdiocese carried out a parish amalgamation process, resulting in the reduction of the number of parishes from 47 to 22. This means, of course, there are now parishes with two or more churches, more than is necessary for worship and pastoral care. In some places the integration of church communities has been slow.

In addition, the Archdiocese continues to experience pressures that compound the present situation and carry major implications for the future:

Earthquake resilience issues mean we have unsustainable insurance costs and buildings with unacceptable NBS ratings.

The reduced number of priests, which is accelerating each year, means that in most parishes there is a single priest (often elderly) expected to minister in more than one church. Availability and ability of priests are highly significant factors governing decisions for our future that cannot be delayed.

The 2017 Archdiocesan Synod voted for new priorities which must be addressed. They cannot be simply “add-ons” to what we already do. They require us to look with new eyes and, with Pope Francis, to radically rethink how we are to be “the People of God” in today’s environment.

We are called to be “missionary disciples”, which in the words of Pope Francis, makes an attitude of “we’ve always done it this way” not only damaging to the Church, but invalid.

Here is our situation:

  • We have too many churches and presbyteries for our Mass count, and for the number and age of our priests.
  • Some of the churches require large sums of money to address their earthquake resilience and general maintenance.
  • Pope Francis and the Synod have challenged us to be more outward-looking and to serve those who are marginalised or disadvantaged.

If we are to respond well to present and future challenges, we need to act together in favour of the common good of all parishes, and support one another in a process of change. This is not an easy task for any of us.

Some of you may see this as a threat to the status quo, but I would like you to see our situation as an opportunity to let the Holy Spirit work in our midst to create a sustainable and mission-oriented future.

So, I am directing every parish to carry out a review of its churches and presbyteries, including parishes with only a single church. The review is to be with me, complete with developed proposals, no later than 30 October 2019.

The review will identify how many churches the parish needs to cater for its Mass count (taking into account the availability of priests and lay pastoral leaders), and the ideal location of the church or churches. For most, if not all parishes with more than one church, this will mean reducing the number of churches in the parish. Provision for accommodation of priests is part of the review.

The review involves collecting and analysing information, and consultation among parishioners. It should result in proposals that are both realistic and practical. Your Pastoral Team and leadership group have received more detailed information, and will be meeting in the near future to look at how the parish might carry out this process.

You need to be prepared to be radical in your thinking and discernment.

The theme of parish amalgamation was “A Future Full of Hope”. This hope-filled future will only start to take shape when we honestly and courageously engage with and answer the many questions about our buildings.

Yours sincerely in the Lord

John A Cardinal Dew
Archbishop of Wellington

The original of this Pastoral Letter can be viewed here.

The Cathedral Connection 17 February 2019

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Blessings indeed

For the 1st few weeks of this year, the readings have been about ‘beginnings’ as Jesus begins his mission. That works in well for us, as we begin a new year.  After choosing his twelve apostles, Jesus teaches about the nature and demands of discipleship. We have to make a choice.

The 1st reading is from Jeremiah. It’s about choices also. God curses those who rely only on themselves, who think they can make it on their own steam. God blesses those who ‘put their trust in the Lord, with the Lord for their hope.’  We are either self-centred or other-centred. One is enriching, the other kills. Today’s psalm echoes that same theme of dependence on God, rather than oneself.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians get to the nub of the matter. It’s the resurrection that matters. As Paul said, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have died…” (1 Cor 15.19). In fact, as Jesus himself promised, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Lk 6.21.)

Luke’s beatitudes reading may seem strange to us, as most often we hear Mathew’s account.  Luke incorporates part of the material Matthew had included in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1-12). Luke’s version is shorter. Unlike Matthew’s nine blessings and no woes, Luke has four each, set in parallels: poor-rich, hungry-full, weeping-laughing, and rejecting-accepted.

If we fail to pay enough attention to such words of blessing, perhaps it is because we are aware of the associated woes, “Woe to you who are rich, … who are full now.” Those bring God’s care for the poor into sharp relief. Or perhaps, childishly, we simply want to wish away realities like poverty, hunger, death.

Today, in our Cathedral parish, it is time to celebrate blessings, the blessings of Fr James’ 11 years in the parish. We do it through a special Mass at St Paul’s Cathedral, and a parish picnic afterwards in the grounds of Parliament. Thank you, Fr James, for all the blessings you have given this parish of the Sacred Heart.  We wish you many blessings in your retirement.

Fr Ron – Moderator, Cathedral Parish.

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Cardinal John’s Newsletter 7 February 2019

Kia tau te rangimarie ki a koutou,

Greetings and all good wishes for 2019. It is hard to belive that the month of January has gone already. So many people have been saying “What happened to January?” The month went by so fast and if it is an indication of what the year is going to be like I think it is probably going to be a very busy year.

You will see in the notice part of this newsletter that I will be away in Rome for most of February. I ask for your prayers for this time and especially for the third of the meetings I am attending. In October this year the New Zealand Bishops will make our Ad Limina visit to Rome. This is the visit usually made every five years to meet with the Holy Father, to celebrate Masses and pray at the Tombs of St Peter and St Paul, and to visit various Roman dicasteries (departments). It is actually eight years since we made our last Ad Limina visit.

This year also brings the challenges of preparing for the Royal Commision into abuse in State and Church Institutions. We do not know yet exactly what is required, but we do know that there is much to prepare. It is also a year in which we are making very big efforts to educate those in any form of ministry that our mission is to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all.

A major effort will go into raising funds for the seismic strengthening and maintenance work to be done on our Cathedral. As well as those major events there are the usual round of many many meetings, celebrations in parishes, Confirmations etc.

It is not just me that has a full year ahead. For everyone life is very full and very busy. The temptation for me is to get caught up in all these things and allow prayer to become a bit perfunctory, something to fit in amidst all the other demands. I know that this is not good enough and that it actually does not help me very much.

I need to pray, we all need to pray. For me that means being disciplined and making the time. If I don’t do that the days just become full of tasks to be done, they can easily become chores and even meaningless. Just a few weeks ago Pope Francis said “Prayer always transforms reality, even if things around us do not change, we do.” I know that this is true. Time set aside enables me to respond to the invitation of Jesus “Remain in my love.” It brings me the gift of peace and the strength to carry on with purpose, hopefully knowing that this all is done with God’s grace. I have recently been reading a wonderful book in which Brother David Steindl Rast is interviewed. He said in one part of the interview; “Rightly understood, praying means facing the Mystery, facing life again and aagin. If we do that, life will show us what to do…life will inevitably challenge us to change. Openness for this change is what matters in prayer. Faith is trust in life, lived new again and again, new in each moment because life is changing every moment.”

I love that idea of prayer being “Facing the Mystery.” This year, whatever it brings for any of us, will you join me in prayer every day, will you join me knowing that in prayer we support each other as we “Face the Mystery?”

Naku noa. Na
+ Hoane

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Cardinal John’s Newsletter 6 December 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Kia tau te rangimarie ki a koutou,

Last Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent I asked for a special penitential rite to be used at all Masses in the Diocese. This was a way of making a response to the Pope’s Letter to the People of God, which he wrote on 20 August of this year. At a meeting of the Council of Priests we thought very hard about what could be done in response to the Letter. We asked the clergy and religious of the Archdiocese to make Friday 5 October a personal day of prayer and fasting, in acknowledgement of the deep wounds and pain caused to victims
of sexual abuse. The priests were very aware that as Pope Francis says in his Letter these were “crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike”.

The penitential rite last weekend was a further response to the Holy Fathers’ call:

“I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.”

I am very conscious of the anger among the laity at the damage done not just to victims, but to the Church and the trust among its members. You have every right to be angry. In his Letter Pope Francis is calling us to move beyond our anger in order to bring about change – a “conversion” – within the Church, and to do so in solidarity with one another: “…every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.”

Pope Francis sees joining together in a penitential mode as the starting point of solidarity in our commitment to a culture of safeguarding and care, which must permeate all aspects of our life together. This is a solidarity which is challenging, but which has the potential to overcome division driven by anger. The change in the power dynamic needed in the Church is substantial and we all have a part to play in this change. As he says in the Letter “It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People”.

If you have not yet read the Pope’s letter, please do so here. It may cause, discomfort, anger and pain. However please reflect on it, talk about it with others. Pope Francis has asked the People of God to act in solidarity and to work towards communal conversion. We priests know that we cannot do this by ourselves. Your concern, care and interest is needed so that we can live and work in solidarity, and so that our Church will be strong, joyful, safe and full of energy.

Naku noa. Na + Hoane

The full newsletter can be viewed here.