by MICHAEL OTTO
ROTORUA — A national assembly of diocesan priests is being planned for Rotorua in 2013, NZ Catholic understands.
The last two national priests’ assemblies have been in Blenheim, in 2003 and 2008, but an organising committee decided it would be good to have a North Island venue this time.
The organising committee, chaired by Fr Paul Farmer of Auckland, has one priest from each of New Zealand’s dioceses.
Committee member Fr Darren McFarlane of Te Aroha told NZ Catholic that Rotorua is an attractive place to have a conference.
“From our point of view, we are looking to be able to house all the priests under one roof, which is different from Blenheim. In Blenheim we were spread out in motels. . . . We are looking at one hotel that can cater for us all,” Fr McFarlane said.
The organising committee is working with a hotel in Rotorua, but the venue won’t be finalised until a guest speaker is confirmed.
“It is important to have a good speaker. We are looking for a speaker of international repute,” Fr McFarlane said.
Previous guests speakers have been former Dominican friars master Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP, and former Trappist monk Fr David Ranson from Broken Bay, Australia.
The assembly, which could be attended by up to 160 diocesan priests, would probably be soon after Easter next year, as has happened in the past.
Fr McFarlane said that as well as providing ongoing education for priests, the assembly is “a fraternal gathering to build the brotherhood of priests”. But organisation of the event is at a “preliminary stage”.
Rotorua parish priest Fr Mark Field said his parishioners are “very excited” at their city hosting the priests’ assembly.
“Some have [said] that they are looking forward to catching up with priests they have known when living in other dioceses,” Fr Field said, adding that he expected local iwi to be “very welcoming” as “the relationship between Ngati Whakaue and the Catholic Church is very close”.
Fr Field said one hotel venue is being considered with the expectation that the priests be able to walk to celebrate Mass at the nearby St Michael’s Church each day during the assembly.

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