Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Round Trip

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Francesco Botticini, ca.1446-1498

There's been no post on the blog for 17 days on account of my being away. I was able to do a round trip visiting our people in Sydney, Christchurch (New Zealand) and Auckland (New Zealand).

The TAC Parish in Sydney is "St Mary the Virgin", and they meet in the chapel of the Lady Davidson Private Hospital, Bobbin Head Road, North Turramurra. The chapel is set in the beautiful bushland for which that part of Sydney is well-known.

The Parish priest of St Mary's is Father Warren Wade (pictured left), a man with long experience as a Bush Brother, and then in working with young people who had gone astray. Like many truly dedicated TAC priests of the "old school" he is using his retirement to continue his ministry. In fact, he has his own radio program, which is, in its own way, a vital outreach on the central coast.

It was great to celebrate Mass and preach for our brothers and sisters at St Mary's who were, of course, keeping their patronal festival, the Solemnity of the Assumption. We considered Mary as the "firstfruits of redeeming love." We thought of her not just as the Mother of all her Son's people, but also as our Sister in Christ whose experience of God's grace, openness to the Holy Spirit and response to the Word - at each point of her pilgrimage helps us to understand God's way with us as we, too, journey toward heaven's glory, supported by Mary's love and prayers.

This turned out to be something of an ecumenical occasion, as people from Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in the surrounding area came to support us. The Mass was followed by a parish lunch.

The next day, those at the core of parish life returned for a discussion of future directions and ways of facing up to the challenge of evangelism and outreach so as to draw new people to the Lord.

I then flew to Christchurch and was met by Ed Bakker who was ordained to the Diaconate in February this year. Deacon Ed and his wife Liz are just out of Christchurch in the small town of Oxford, not far from the foothills of the Southern Alps. There has been plenty of snow this year as you can see in this photo (which proves I was there!).

Readers will understand that although the "official" Anglican Church in New Zealand has had women priests for thirty years, a new situation has developed in the Diocese of Christchurch with the appointment of a woman bishop. A small number of Anglicans who see the "ordination" of women not just as a "difference of opinion on a second-order issue" but as a rupture of sacramental grace and inconsistent with the teaching of historic Anglican formularies which commit us to Catholic faith and practice, are considering their options. Under these circumstances it is fortuitous that we have a small but growing presence in that part of New Zealand.

Deacon Ed (pictured left) has just obtained the use of a church at Cust, halfway between Oxford and Rangiora, where he will conduct fortnightly services on Sunday afternoons, and - when he has been ordained to the priesthood - celebrate Mass. This church is part of the Oxford Union Parish with whom we have good ecumenical relations.

From Christchurch I flew to Auckland to visit our congregation who are under the patronage of St Hilda and St Sebastian. Their priest is Canon Ian Woodman, and they, too, have a new deacon, Andrew Wooding (pictured right). It is always good to catch up with Father Ian, a fine Catholic evangelist who reaches out in all sorts of ways to a wide range of people. We had an adult Confirmation during Mass on Sunday, as well as a meeting to think about growth, development and outreach in years to come. Below I and Fr Ian are holding up the new sign for the main road just near the church building.

May the Lord continue to pour out his blessings on our people in Sydney and New Zealand!


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