Pandemic inspires Catholic rededication of Aotearoa NZ to Mary

SMOA dress rehearsal 13 August2

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops will gather with parishioners from around the country in Wellington this Sunday for a pandemic-inspired special Mass to renew an 1838 dedication of Aotearoa New Zealand to Mary mother of God.

Bishop of Hamilton, Stephen Lowe, said the country’s first Catholic Bishop, Jean-Baptiste Pompallier, dedicated the country to Mary Assumed into Heaven when he celebrated the first Mass at Totara Point in the Hokianga in January 1838.
During the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown last year many Catholic parishioners urged the bishops to dedicate Aotearoa New Zealand to Mary to seek her protection.

“The bishops believed the idea of a renewal of that dedication had merit especially with the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven falling on a Sunday this year.

Mary has a special place in the hearts of Catholics and her intercession for us to her Son. In this time of a world pandemic, we felt it fitting to renew our country’s dedication to her,” said Bishop Lowe, Secretary of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference.

The Mass will be celebrated at the Wellington landmark St Mary of the Angels Church, where a substantial Aotearoa-themed artwork depicting Mary and the child Jesus will be unveiled before being taken on a 12-month hīkoi around the country. The overall name for the celebration is Te Ara a Maria: Mary’s Way. Details are on the specially created website.

As well as the special 1.30pm Mass at St Mary of the Angels, every Catholic parish will be invited to renew Bishop Pompallier’s dedication in their regular Sunday parish Mass.

The bishops commissioned Rangiora artist Damien Walker to create a striking work of Mary and the child Jesus. The work will be welcomed to St Mary of the Angels immediately before the Mass and unveiled there. After the Mass, it will leave for Invercargill on the start of a hīkoi (journey) around the country’s six Catholic dioceses that will end with its return and permanent placement in St Mary of the Angels, which will become a national shrine.

“Mary is a woman of great relevance to all believers today,” Bishop Lowe said. “She was called from obscurity to a role and future she could barely imagine but which she embraced wholeheartedly as her life became more and more intertwined with the mission of her son. She stands before us as an example of faith, hope and love in the midst of times of dramatic change, uncertainties, challenges and even suffering who prays for us on our journeys.”

  • Picture: Senior students from St Catherine's and St Patrick's colleges in Kilbirnie and Bishop Viard College in Porirua join with Katorika kaumatua to practise for the arrival of the new artwork of Mary and Jesus at the Mass on Sunday.