Kia Ora!

  • July 12, 2008

Auckland, NZ - Kia Ora is Maori for "hello" or "greetings." Maori is New Zealand (NZ)'s native tongue. At 10 a.m., pilgrims from Ottawa, Winnipeg, Sweden, and Atlanta visited "Te Waiariki" - a Maori community building constructed in 1977 which means "the waters of baptism."

We were greeted by two members of the community and were told that their house now belongs to us and that we will always be welcome to visit them. The name of the land is "Whai Atu Te Wai Ora" which means "seek out life-giving waters."

The community's name is Otara and their church is St. John the Apostle. Helen Clark, NZ's prime minister, visited "Te Waiariki" moments before our group arrived. She then went to the market that we visited later on. The market is about 10 minutes away by foot.

"Pokarekare Ana" is NZ's famous folk song. There are many different styles of that song (for young and old), according to Lucy Ellis, an organizer for WYD in Auckland and a Kiwi pilgrim. The song was playing while we visited the market.

Lucy and I visited a shop that sold "Puletasi" which are traditional Samoa shirt and skirt outfits. Samoa is an island in the South Pacific.

We then went to visit the Sisters of St. Joseph and went to Mass at St. Joseph's church at 1 p.m. Once again, our Canadian Archbishop Terrence Prendergast led the Mass and he celebrated it with priests and deacons from Canada.

Paula, a sister of St. Joseph's, welcomed us before Mass and said that WYD is special to them too. She welcomed the archbishop, priests and deacons and presented them to the congregation.

Blessed Mary Mackillop, the founder of their order, is from Sydney, Australia, and we will visit her shrine at her birthplace. Pope Benedict XVI will also visit the shrine.

Mary's life motto was to never see a need and not do anything about it. We too, as Catholics,  should share the compassionate heart of God with all those that we meet.

The nuns encouraged us to enjoy the experience of WYD, to listen with the ears of our hearts and to keep our eyes looking at Jesus.

The archbishop welcomed everyone in French and English and said "though we don't speak Maori yet, we're working on (learning) it."

"We are given the power to witness to others: we shouldn't worry about anything," said the archbishop. "Some of us lost a guitar case or luggage, but we have to think that God is behind it all," he added. "Our God is a kind and loving God . . . He cares for us and knows every single thing about us".

Like Peter, our lips should be praising God. Peter was aware of the presence of God, and we should be too. Our sins are forgiven, so we shouldn't be afraid to go to Him for help.

"We want to say to God: Here I am Lord, send me," added the archbishop during the homily. "Let us pray to be like sister Mary Mackillop and say yes to God."

The archbishop reminded us that God is in charge of the world. "Our loving God wants to draw us all to himself," said the archbishop. He also invited us to pray for vocations to the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

We then bused back to St. Thomas More parish and were driven by our host families to their homes. We had dinner with a few other host families of the community.

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