A Message From the Lake

Tena koutou e te whanau Katorika o Aotearoa, nga kaikawe o te Rongopai. Nga mihi whanui na o koutou tuakana o te tinana o Hehu, kotahi tonu.

During the first week of September 2001 we, the Catholic bishops of New Zealand gathered together on the shores of Lake Taupo, to pray together and to reflect on Pope John Paul's Apostolic Letter "Entering the New Millennium" (Novo Millennio Ineunte).

We were supported by the local people who prayed and celebrated Eucharist with us each day. We were blessed with a sense of openness and of learning from each other as we shared our concerns and our frailties, and we would like to share with you something of what we learned from this experience.

The Pope encourages us to enter the third millennium in the way that Jesus challenged his first disciples to begin the Christian era - put out into the deep - to be courageous both in what he sends us out to do, but also in deepening our relationship with him. He personally is to be the source of all our pastoral initiatives and our sense of direction.

John Paul emphasises the need for pastoral planning, pastoral councils and forums. But these are to take place in the company of Jesus who is as truly with us today as he was among his first disciples.

Conscious of the risen Lord's presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: What must we do?

It does not matter that we do not know all the answers. It matters that we know the right way to them. It is in contemplating the face of Christ that we know the Way.

The Holy Father wants all our communities to be genuine schools of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly falls in love. It is this sense of Christ's presence among us that changes the way we see everything, and makes the difference we have not always been making.

We cannot begin to summarise this rich and striking letter. We urge all to read it and to pray over it. Our own need to do so was the reason for our spending time with him and one another. The words 'Duc in altum' (out into the deep) had a special ring for us on the shores of the great Lake Taupo. We were conscious of the parallel with the Sea of Gallilee, where Peter and companions heard these words of Jesus.

John Paul calls on bishops in collaboration and consultation with their people to plan the journey, adapting and harmonising their pastoral initiatives and programmes to the circumstances of their respective cultures and communities.

Mercy sister, Judith Leydon, brought excellent facilitation to our meetings, keeping us moving forward. Two women who work amongst the marginalised, one a lay woman, Ms Kitty McKinley, the other a religious, Sr Catherine Hannan DOLC, shared their concerns with us for one day of our meetings, and Anglican Bishop David Moxon of Waikato joined us on another day with positive suggestions for new ecumenical possibilities.

We would like to share with you some of the fruits of our lakeside retreat.

We Asked Ourselves

In launching out into the deep what do we need to keep, what do we jettison and leave behind in terms of our attitudes and practices?

How do we read and respond to the signs of the times in a society of rapid and far-reaching change? The words 'risk' and 'courage' surfaced many times in our discussions.

Are we present to our priests and people, compassionate, listening to them, hearing their concerns, helping them to recognise the signs of God's presence in their lives, walking the journey with them as fellow pilgrims? Are we seen as men of hope and prayer?

How might we attend to the aspirations and pastoral needs of our people who are living in irregular situations?

How transparent are we, letting people know the reasons for initiatives and decisions that are taken?

How best can we assist understanding of the reasons for the Church's position on controversial moral and ethical issues? And how present the wealth of the great body of the Church's social teaching that is unparalleled in its scope and richness?

While each bishop is responsible for the formation and enrichment of the people of his own diocese, Pope John Paul reminds us of the need to harmonise the choices of each diocesan community with those of neighbouring Churches and the universal Church.

In a country as small as ours, there is a high degree of interdiocesan cooperation through our agencies, which include seminary and theological formation, schools, religious education, family life initiatives, communication, evangelisation, Te Runanga, the annual Lenten Appeal, missionary activities, Canon Law, justice and peace, liturgy and youth.

We discerned some possible future areas of collaboration that will encourage us to journey together in the spirit of Novo Millennio Ineunte: renewed, prayerful and revitalised.

Encouraging opportunities for growth in personal and community prayer, participation in liturgical gatherings and reflection on the Word of God, that lead people to deepen their relationship with Christ.

Establishing some national event that will affirm our priests and support their ongoing formation.

Taking initiatives that offer support for families, education for lay leaders and lay ministries, promotion of vocations, assistance to our growing migrant community and leadership training for our young people.

Deepening our ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue.

Taking seriously the challenges that confront the Church through globalisation and the communications and information technology revolution. We must utilise these technologies professionally in the service of the Church's evangelising mission.

During October this year three hundred bishops representing national bishops’ conferences around the world will gather for a month-long assembly to examine the ministry and role of bishops in the modern era. We shall take to that synod through our elected representative, Bishop Patrick Dunn, the concerns and insights we gained from our lakeside retreat in Taupo.

"Duc in altum" launch out into the deep. We do so with courage and a strong sense of mission knowing that we are not doing it in isolation but in support of each other, and in awareness of the fact that we are supported by an army of saints who walk alongside us.

We conclude with the words of Pope John Paul.

"At the beginning of this new century our steps must quicken as we travel the highways of the world. Many are the paths on which each one of us and each of our Churches must travel, but there is no distance between those who are united in the same communion, the communion which is daily nourished at the table of the Eucharistic Bread and the Word of Life. Every Sunday, the Risen Christ asks us to meet him as it were once more in the Upper Room where, on the evening of the first day of the week he appeared to his disciples in order to breathe on them his life-giving Spirit and launch them on the great adventure of proclaiming the gospel." (Novo Millennio Ineunte: 58)

Peter J Cullinane
Bishop of Palmerston North
President, New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Leonard A Boyle
Bishop of Dunedin

Denis G Browne
Bishop of Hamilton
Vice President

John J Cunneen
Bishop of Christchurch

John A Dew
Auxiliary Bishop of Wellington

Owen J Dolan
Coadjutor Bishop of Palmerston North

Patrick J Dunn
Bishop of Auckland

Robin W Leamy SM
Emeritus Bishop of Rarotonga

Max Takuira Mariu SM
Auxiliary Bishop of Hamilton

Thomas, Cardinal Williams
Archbishop of Wellington