Father Henare Arekatera Tate died on 1 April, aged 79. Pa Henare, as he was affectionately known, served in many capacities in the Auckland Diocese, especially in the parishes and communities of the Far North which were very dear to his heart.
He was born in Rawene, and died there at Rawene Hospital after struggling bravely, but always cheerfully, with cancer.
He retired to his home of Motuti at early in 2008, where he remained very active in many areas, but especially promoting awareness of our first bishop, Bishop Pompallier, who is buried in the church there. Pa Henare held a deep regard for Bishop Pompallier and was aware that his forebears had never forgotton the affection that had been established between them and that great missionary bishop.
He became pivotal in the plan to return the remains of Bishop Pompallier (known to Maori as Pihopa Pomaparie) from the cemetery in Paris where he lay unknown and forgotten to Aotearoa, where he was still remembered with such affection and esteem. Largely due to his efforts, our first bishop was laid to rest in 2002 in the beautiful St Mary’s Church at Motuti.
As a young priest he worked with the Te Rangimarie cultural group at Te Unga Waka marae, and produced the sacred musical “Christ the Maori” which presented the life of Christ in song and dance that spoke to Maori hearts. It was performed on marae and in halls throughout the country, and was deeply formative for those who witnessed the performances, but especially for those who were in Te Rangimarie.
Pa became a key contributor in the development of what he called “Maori Theology” and was awarded his PhD for his seminal work in this field. When Pope John Paul 11 visited New Zealand in 1986 he emphasised to the Maori people who were gathered in the Auckland Domain that “It is as Maori that Christ calls you to follow him.” Pa began to research deeply the connections between what is taught in the Gospels and the values that are treasured within his own Maori culture. For many years he lectured in this area for the Catholic Institute of Theology.
The Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, said that Pa Henare also played a key role in the translation of our present liturgical texts into Maori. Scholars could provide an exact or literal translation, but Pa would often come up with some other word or phrase that had a deeper and more beautiful richness for Maori speakers.
“He was a brilliant orator,” Bishop Dunn said, “always interesting and always laced with humour. There was a deeply spiritual side to his character, and this was always to the fore. His energy was endless and there was always some new project that he was undertaking. During his time as parish priest at Panguru, virtually every church in that sprawling parish was renovated and repainted.
“We will miss his creativity and the knowledge, insights and commitment with which his whole priestly ministry was imbued,” Bishop Dunn said.