What an event, what a celebration, what a blessing. The Inauguration Mass of the newly formed St Thomas Aquinas Parish was well attended by parishioners from the three churches: St Mary Immaculate Tauranga, St Joseph’s Te Puna, and St Therese of Lisieux Bethlehem. It was estimated that around 800 people attended the event which was held in the school gym. The Emmaus band led the music with such gusto that the rafters were rattling giving the Mass, celebrated by Bishop Steve, a true sense of joy and renewal. As an elderly parishioner of St Mary’s was heard saying after the service, “If there’s one thing we Catholics know how to do well, it’s how to celebrate!”
Bishop Steve’s enlivening homily reminded of us of the church’s humble beginnings in Tauranga Moana and how the waters of the Pacific Ocean run past Mauao as the tide flows. For centuries the tide has renewed and rejuvenated our shores just as the coming of our three churches to make the new St Thomas Aquinas Parish begins.
The twenty-three Student Executive Leaders for 2017 were invested by Bishop Steve, and presented with their badges by Principal, Ray Scott. The students were reminded of their responsibility to leadership and service as they undertake their year as student leaders. They looked resplendent in their uniforms, standing proudly in front of their community.
Fr Mark Field was congratulated by the Bishop on the work he undertook to achieve the harmonious blending of the new parish. The congregation applauded in agreement. Thank you Bishop Steve, Father Mark and all those involved with the foresight and vision to establish the new St Thomas Aquinas Parish in Tauranga Moana.
Below is the Homily Bishop Steve gave.
Homily for the Promulgation of St Thomas Aquinas Parish
Tauranga Moana, 5 March 2017
Every day, twice a day, the waters of the Pacific Ocean flood Tauranga Moana as the tide flows in… Indeed, for time immemorial, the tides have flowed in and out past Mauao unobserved until the arrival of the great wakas from Hawaiki and the arrival of tangata whenua – the people of the land, the first people of the land.
Centuries and thousands of tides later other waka arrived carrying new people from far-away lands and a second migration of peoples. With these was the first missionary arriving in 1826. Fourteen years later, on the 7th of March 1840, on the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Jean Baptiste Pompallier, Romano, a Maori catechist, Fr Philippe Viard and Brother Michel Columban arrived in Tauranga Moana. This was the first time the Catholic apostle or the bishop for all of Western Oceania stepped foot in what is now the Diocese of Hamilton.
It is this day, 177 years ago, that marks the beginning of the weaving the re panel that is the history of the Catholic community here in Tauranga Moana, for our lives as Christians is a process of being weaved ever closer to God and to each other as the one people of God. Two months later, in May 1840, Fr Viard and Romano the catechist returned to establish the Catholic mission here. For you of Tauranga Moana, Fr Viard and Romano are your tupuna and models in the building of the Catholic faith community, priest and people working together.
As the faith community here grew, new churches were built and parishes established. A new church was built on Cameron Road in 1888 – the first of three churches on site. In 1900, St Joseph’s Church, Te Puna was dedicated… these are just two of the churches of your parishes. The histories, By the Name of Mary and the Te Puna Centennial book, Keepers of the Faith record the rich history of people, religious and priests who have worked for the building of the Te Puna and Tauranga parishes through the passage of time.
And every day the tides came in and out past Mauao, the breath of Tauranga Moana.
In today’s Gospel it is the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, that immediately after his baptism leads Jesus into the wilderness. … and there he faces three temptations. Jesus responses are a good summary of what it is to be a parish as new once again become one parish…
Jesus went into the wilderness a carpenter… he came out as the Messiah, the Christ, the one who lives his mission and announces the Kingdom. To the temptation to turn stones into bread Jesus says – One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God… So, you people of Tauranga Moana, be people of the Word, believe it, live it. To the temptation to throw himself off the Temple and entrust himself to the angels Jesus said, You must not put the Lord your God to the test. In other words, Trust in God. And to the temptation to worship the tempter in order to gain all the kingdoms of the world Jesus said to him, and to you, Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.
This sums up your parish vision and mission statements, your call to be a parish, a people in love with God and alive with joyful worship, active ministry and community outreach. All of you, young and old are called to celebrate the sacraments, nourish the faithful, reach out to the lost, serve the poor, build community, connect the youth, grow the Church. These are not to be just nice words that stay on your Parish website. Each week each of you need to ask yourself, “How have I done this week in living my mission as a disciple of Jesus?” It’s not enough to play lip service to the faith… each one of you are called to live the faith after the example of Romano and Fr Viard and the countless parishioners who have worked and built the faith communities here through its 177 years.
So Fr Mark, Fr Santey, Deacons Sid and Don and your successors… have the faith, faithfulness and fortitude of Fr Viard and the pioneer clergy… Parishioners, be like Romano the cathechist! By your baptism you share the mission of Jesus… you too are called to be catechists. Keep the faith, share the faith! Times have changed in the history of the Church here in Tauranga Moana but the mission is the same, to live the life of Jesus Christ and to share the faith of his Church, and this mission belongs to us all.
Today, as we celebrate this new beginning, we look to the past with gratitude for the life of the Parishes of St Joseph’s, Te Puna, St Therese of Lisieux, Bethlehem and St Mary Immaculate, Tauranga. Today I invite you to embrace your new Parish of St Thomas Aquinas with enthusiasm and to look to the future with confidence. And at this moment as we gather the waters of the Pacific Ocean are flowing past Mauao filling Tauranga Moana. And so my prayer for you is the Spirit of God who led Jesus into the wilderness and empowered him as the Christ, may fill you with a new confidence to be the people of God here in Tauranga Moana, a people who live their faith in joy and hope, who share their faith in generous love and service.
Having listened to your journey together over these past years and in response to your request, I now solemnly promulgate St Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Parish of Tauranga Moana, on this 5th day of March in the two thousand and seventeenth Year of the Lord. Amen.
Bishop Steve Lowe