There are three Divine Word Missionaries based in and around Wellington, New Zealand, engaged in a variety of ministries.
St Patrick’s Parish, Wainuiomata
Until recently, Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD was the parish priest of St Patrick’s Parish, Wainuiomata, about 20 minutes from the centre of Wellington, in the Lower Hutt region. Below is an insight he gave into his life with the parish prior to his departure for a new assignment in Sydney:
St Patrick’s is a multicultural community, made up primarily of Kiwi, Maori, Pacific Islander, Filipino and Sri Lankan peoples. Three Masses are celebrated every weekend and the parish also hosts a Samoan Mass every second Sunday of the month.
“In our parish we like to celebrate the multiculturalism of Wellington,” Fr Elmer says.
He gives his greeting and blessing in Maori at every Mass and the parish is trying to incorporate more Maori songs in the Mass.
Last year the parish had a fundraising concert to raise funds for a new data projector and the lineup featured performances by groups from Samoa, Tokalu, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Maori. And every year the parish has a multicultural Mass, celebrated by the Apostolic Nuncio. Apart from celebrating Mass and facilitating the sacramental program (with the help of Sisters of Compassion), Fr Elmer is kept busy with pastoral work, such as visiting the sick and spending time with students at local schools.
St Patrick’s parish, while very much a part of the Archdiocese of Wellington, also bears the distinctive charism of the Society of the Divine Word.
A Bible sharing and study group meets every Thursday at 7.30pm and Bible seminars, hosted by SVD missionaries, also feature regularly. A celebration of SVD Foundation Day on September 8 is held every year and attracts a good turn-out.
There is a strong seniors presence in the parish and once a month the older parishioners gather for a simple soup lunch and to join in an activity such as Housie together. Excursions are also popular. Social justice works include a St Vincent de Paul shop in front of the parish and among the devotions of the parish, there is a well-attended weekly Eucharistic Adoration.
Archdiocese of Wellington Lay Pastoral Leadership Team
Fr Albano Da Costa SVD works with two priests and two lay pastoral leaders from the Archdiocese of Wellington as part of a new expression of collaborative ministry. He has just been joined by Fr Marlon Maylon SVD who will work with him in this exciting new initiative.
Archbishop John Dew has introduced Lay Pastoral Leadership into the Archdiocese both as a way to address the shortage of priests and to celebrate and support the baptismal calling of lay people in the Church.
Under the Lay Pastoral Leadership model, lay men and women are trained so that they can work alongside priests in pastoral area teams, not replacing the priests, but complementing them and collaborating with them in providing pastoral care in a particular area of the Archdiocese.
Fr Albano and his fellow team members work in three parishes – Sacred Heart Parish, Petone, Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Waiwhetu and San Antonio Church, Eastbourne.
“So every Sunday you’ll find me in a different one of those three parishes,” he says. “It puts you in touch with a wider community and I feel good about that.”
Fr Albano and the other priests on his team celebrate Mass and conduct baptisms, funerals and weddings, while the lay pastoral leaders take carriage of the pastoral life of the parishes, including sacramental programs, administration and finance. He also spends time at the Sacred Heart School, Petone and at the school in Eastbourne and does home visits and visits to the sick.
One of the great pastoral successes for Fr Albano and his team has been the celebration of a children’s Mass at Eastbourne.
“Families who we never used to see are coming to that Mass. Numbers are on the rise and that’s wonderful,” he says.
Missionz – (The Pontifical Mission Societies)
Fr Bernard Espiritu SVD has been appointed by the Vatican as the National Director of Missionz – the Pontifical Mission Societies in New Zealand.
Based in Wellington, Fr Bernard is charged with promoting and finding funding and support for the four Pontifical Mission Societies in NZ. The four societies are: Propagation of the Faith; Holy Childhood; St Peter the Apostle; and the Missionary Union.
Fr Bernard travels the length and breadth of New Zealand, speaking at Masses, promoting a missionary spirit among the people, and raising funds for the missions around the world.
The Missionz office produces resources and liturgy material to help parishes celebrate Mission Sunday which takes place in October, which is Mission Month on the Universal Church calendar.
In the tradition of the Society of the Divine Word, Fr Bernard says that his work is firmly planted in the scriptural tradition.
“Scripture should be the context of Mission education,” he says. “You become a cheerful giver if you know why you’re giving.
“By promoting Mission in this context, I believe we can build a tradition for the future. It’s an SVD contribution to the Church.”