“Bishop Pompallier had the greatest gift to give, a gift of Jesus”
With these words Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton greeted the faithful at Totara Point, on a bank of the Hokianga River, on Epiphany Sunday, January 8th. “Today is a about arrivals, gifts and losing oneself,” he told those who gathered to commemorate the 178th anniversary of the very first Mass celebrated right there in 1838 by Bishop Jean Francois Pompallier.
Over a hundred worshippers from local parishes of Te Tai Tokerau, and also visitors from Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton and some from as far as Tahiti, joined Bishop Lowe, Pa Henare Tate, Fr Richard Cortes MSP, Fr Bernard Dennehy, Fr Kerry Prendeville SM and Deacon David Hotere for the commemorative Mass. Pa Tate of Motuti welcomed everyone and spoke of his very first time at Totara Point when – while still in the womb of his mother – he ‘participated’ in the Centennial Mass in 1938. He then organised the celebrations of the 150th anniversary, and had hardly missed the commemorative mass ever since.
Bishop Lowe in his homily spoke about Bishop Pompallier and his ‘losing himself’ to what was familiar and known to him in France, embarking on a long (over 2 years) and dangerous sea journey to the unknown, and arriving in Aotearoa in January 1838 with ‘the biggest gift’: that of Jesus Christ. Together with the other Marist Missionaries “they were willing to take the risk, to follow, to find, to see”. Like the Wise Men from today’s Gospel, continued Bp Lowe, who followed a star to arrive, pay homage and offer gifts to Jesus Christ, a King who arrived humbly as a vulnerable baby and was laid in a simple manger, those present came today to lose themselves in His humility, to worship Him with our own gifts, to partake in His Body and Blood, and so to receive the gift of the everlasting life.
At the end of the Mass, and before the traditional hospitality offered to all by the local community, Fr Kerry Prendeville SM re-commissioned for the next two years the Katekita for the North and South Hokianga, as well as the Ministers of the Word and the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist.
Bishop Lowe concluded with a wish to see more people from all five dioceses of New Zealand gathering at Totara Point to celebrate the 1st Mass celebrated in New Zealand Aotearoa by Bishop Pompallier, “who was a bishop of the whole Aotearoa”.