Four Kiwis to bring insights to Pope’s discussion on marriage and the family

16 Sep 2015 | GENERAL INTEREST



Two lay people and two Bishops from New Zealand will travel to Rome to participate in the Catholic Church’s discussion led by Pope Francis on Marriage and the Family, next month.

Mrs Sharron Cole, Dr John Kleinsman, Cardinal John Dew and Bishop Charles Drennan will be attending.


The Synod gathering follows on from the gathering last year on the same topic which was widely discussed throughout the world. Synods are gatherings held annually of Cardinals and Bishops and given the nature of the topics discussed at the gathering in 2014 and the one coming significant input from lay people has been included.

This is a significant number, named in a list of participants overnight from Rome, from a small country like New Zealand, especially a country with a small Catholic population. It reflects Pope Francis’ efforts in reaching out to the margins, including geographical ones, ensuring that the Church throughout the world has a voice in this global discussion. Add to that, Cardinal Soane Mafi, Bishop of Tonga, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Bishop Eugene Hurley, and Ms Maria Harres from Australia who will also be attending and there will be significant input from the Pacific.

“In travelling to Rome I will be mindful of people back home in New Zealand, and especially the significant percentage of Catholics who feel they no longer belong within the Church. For many, this is because their committed relationship or their family does not fit within the parameters or the language the church usually uses to describe family. They do not see themselves in the language we use to describe family.” said Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North.

“I’m looking forward to taking part in these discussions, I’m particularly grateful that New Zealand will have two lay people representing us and in particular to have in them the expertise and backgrounds from which Sharron Cole and John Kleinsman come from." Said Cardinal John Dew

“The task I’ve been asked to do involves helping with the drafting of the documents, drawing together feedback from the Synod interventions and small group discussions. I feel very privileged to be able to be a part of what is such an important conversation in our Church at this time. I’m looking forward to hearing the different perspectives and learning about the issues that affect families in cultures very different from New Zealand. It is great that Pope Francis is enabling a forum where people can honestly and respectfully share their views and opinions. This sort of gathering is very much in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and its emphasis on the Church being concerned not just with itself but with humankind as it really is today.” Said John Kleinsman

“I’ve been invited to give a presentation on a related topic and participate in the Synod discussion. I’m mindful that it is a privilege to contribute in this way and would like offer insights from my own personal experience, as a wife and mother, as well as things I’ve observed about New Zealand families through my professional work and from my own parish community.” Said Sharron Cole.

Background of attendees from New Zealand:

Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington
Cardinal Dew was born in Waipawa, and grew up in Waipukurau. After a short time working following College, he commenced his studies for the priesthood at Holy Name Seminary, Christchurch where he studied Philosophy under Jesuit professors for two years and then for five years he studied Theology at Holy Cross Seminary, Mosgiel under the Vincentians. Cardinal Dew was ordained priest at Waipukurau by Cardinal Reginald Delargey in May 1976.


He was ordained as Auxiliary Bishop for the Wellington Archdiocese 31 May, 1995, then appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Wellington 24 May, 2004. He succeeded Cardinal Williams as Archbishop of Wellington 21 March, 2005.


He has been Military Ordinary for New Zealand since 2005. He is currently the Moderator of the Tribunal of the Catholic Church for New Zealand. Cardinal Dew is bishop member of NZCBC Finance Committee and National Professional Standards Committee; member of the NZCBC Commission for the Church.


Elevated to Cardinal at the consistory 14 February 2015. Appointed Cardinal-priest of Sant'Ippolito Church, Rome. In 2015, he was appointed a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.


He has attended several Synods since becoming an Auxiliary Bishop in 2005.


Bishop Charles Drennan, Bishop of Palmerston North.
Bishop Drennan was born and raised in Christchurch. After finishing university he spent a three-year period travelling overseas and worked for a period in a Ryder-Chesirehome in India for tuberculosis patients, special needs adults and children whose parents had leprosy. There he made the decision to become a priest. He studied for the priesthood at Holy Cross Seminary, Mosgiel for two years before travelling to Rome to complete his training at thePontifical Urbaniana University. He later took postgraduate studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Bishop Drennan was ordained at St Teresa’s parish, Riccarton, Christchurch on 14 June 1996 and on 28 September 1997 was received as an Ascribed member of the Institute of Charity (Rosminians).
Appointments held since ordination: Parish appointments in Hoon Hay and Bryndwr in Christchurch and in Timaru North; Holy Cross Seminary and Good Shepherd College, Auckland; Vatican Secretariat of State; Administrator of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and Parish Priest of St Anne’s, Woolston; Chancellor of the Diocese of Christchurch.

He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Palmerston North in February 2011 and then ordained bishop at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Palmerston North on 11 June 2011 and later installed as the second Ordinary of the Diocese of Palmerston North on 22 February 2012.

Bishop Drennan is a member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania and is bishop member of the Board of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office Ltd; member of the NZCBC Commission for the Church.

Bishop Drennan attended the Synod on the New Evangelisation in Rome 2012.

Sharron Cole, QSO, MA, DipEd, DipCBEd. Sharron is currently the CEO of the Midwifery Council and chairs the boards of Parents Centres New Zealand and Rethinking Crime and Punishment. Formerly she was Deputy Chief Families Commissioner, Deputy Chair of the Hutt District health Board and Chair of the Wellington Health and Disability Ethics Committee. She has a Masters degree in history, with her research centring on Maori land protest movement in Hawkes Bay during the 1860s. She was a member of the Nathaniel Centre’s staff for a number of years and remains on its Panel of Advisors. She was the Director of the Wellington Catholic Education Centre for a period prior to its merger into TCI. She is heavily involved in parish life, both her faith community of Sacred Heart Petone where she lives and in the new Parish of The Holy Spirit Te Wairua Tapu. Sharron is married with four adult children.

Sharron’s role in the Synod is as an Auditor and she has been invited to add her observations, personal testimony and comments to the discussion. She wants to bring the experience of being a New Zealand Catholic layperson, wife and mother to the discussion. The document that emerges from the synod should be relevant to today’s society. It should remain true to Catholic teaching and not be either doctrinal or judgmental but pastorally-based, understandable, compassionate and inclusive.

Dr John Kleinsman PhD (SCD); MTheol, (Otago); BTheol (Otago). Dr Kleinsman is the Director of The Nathaniel Centre – the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre. He is also the Head of Research and Advocacy and a lecturer in Christian morality, ethics and leadership for the Catholic Institute of Aotearoa (TCI). He has worked at The Nathaniel Centre since 2001 and was appointed Director in May 2010. He brings a varied background of community experience to his work in bioethics as a result of previous employment in the disability support and drug and alcohol rehabilitation sectors. He completed his doctoral studies in 2012. His research focused on the potential contributions of contemporary 'thinkers of the gift' to a renewed theology of procreation and the implications of this for Catholic teaching on the transmission of human life in an age of assisted reproductive technologies. He is married to Kerry and they have three adult children. John and Kerry are long-time parishioners of St’s Peter and Pauls Parish where they are the Coordinators for Passionist Family Groups, a Movement that seeks to establish and build up community networks of care and friendship within a parish.