In their Pastoral Priorities Plan prepared in 2007 the Bishops spoke of their vision for Aotearoa New Zealand:
…the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand will be faith-filled and dynamic, with Christ as its centre. Its unique identity in the global Church will be flowing, as it always has, from the presence of Maori, who have been part of the Church since the time of Bishop Pompallier
In writing about Bishop Pompallier’s legacy Cardinal Thomas Williams makes clear that Maori were “foundation members” of the Church in this country, waiting in hope with other Catholics for Bishop Pompallier’s arrival in 1838:
He arrived early January 1838 in Aotearoa New Zealand and worked for thirty years to bring the Catholic faith to the people of this land. He was helped by Maori won to the faith before his arrival, priests and brothers of the Society of Mary, immigrant Catholic families from England and Ireland, Sisters of Mercy, and other Religious.
Cardinal Thomas Williams, Pompallier's Legacy, 2002
In time Maori priests were ordained, and worked among their people alongside missionaries from other countries. In 1988 Pa Max Takuira Mariu SM DD CNZM was ordained bishop, fulfilling a long held desire of Maori and the whole Catholic people for a Maori bishop.
Bishop Mariu died in 2005 at the age of 53, and his loss has been deeply felt by Maori, the Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, iwi, hapu, whanau and by the other bishops.
Te Runanga o te Hahi Katorika ki Aotearoa is the national body established by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference to advise the bishops on the pastoral care and evangelisation of Maori, and to foster understanding and communication within the Church on matters pertaining to Maori pastoral care.
The pastoral care of Maori is organised in different ways in the six dioceses. Some dioceses have a Vicar for Maori, while others have a Maori chaplaincy. Priests, religious and lay people are involved in the pastoral care of Maori across the country.
There are three Catholic Maori secondary schools, all providing boarding facilities. These colleges have great historical significance, with St Joseph’s Maori Girls College in Napier, the first to be established, opening in 1867. Hato Petera College in Auckland opened in 1928, and Hato Paora College Feilding in 1948.
“The Maori people have maintained their identity in this land. The people coming from Europe, and more recently from Asia, have not come to a desert. They have come to a land already marked by a rich and ancient heritage, and they are called to respect and foster that heritage as a unique and essential element of the identity of this country. The Maori people in turn are challenged to welcome new settlers and to learn to live in harmony with those who have come here from far away to make here a new home for themselves. All of you are invited to share in this land in peace and in mutual respect. You do this by recognizing the common bond of being members of one human family, created in the image of God and called to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way, each culture is given the chance to contribute its talents and resources for the good of all.”
Pope John Paul II, Christchurch, 1986