by PETER GRACE
AUCKLAND — The closure of the Catholic Institute of Theology is like shutting the door to a room, Pa Henare Tate told 150 institute friends and supporters at St Columba Centre in Ponsonby on October 26.
It is only the end, Pa Tate said, if one closes the door and stays in the room.
The institute will close at the end of 2012, to be replaced by a Theological Research Unit.
The closing ceremonies, “Celebrating the Life and Work of the Catholic Institute of Theology”, included the blessing of a history of CIT — Exploring Theology Together — History of the Catholic Institute of Theology, Auckland, by Diane Strevens.
CIT principal Fr John Dunn said that when CIT began, the excitement and hope of Vatican II were there too. He wanted to thank and honour those who were part of that early vision, including CIT pioneers Fr Neil Darragh and Sr Katrina Brill, RSJ, and religious orders who had given generous support.
Fr Dunn spoke of what CIT had achieved in its 23 years.
CIT’s mission statement, spoke of the institute being a centre of theological education, enquiry and research, committed to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi, and so committed to a bicultural society and a bicultural Church.
They had been true to that vision, Fr Dunn said, educating teachers, parishioners, students, going out to parishes, and drawing people into CIT’s journey.
CIT believed that all those who exercise ministry in the Church must be educated to the highest standards. “We have held strongly to the view that Catholics must believe critically with their minds as well as love with their hearts.”
CIT also treasured the ecumenical collaboration that had been part of its life.
The institute had held to its commitments to tangata whenua, to justice and to the full and active mission of men and women in the Church.
This is not the end of a book, but of a chapter, Fr Dunn said, with more chapters to be written.
Author Diane Strevens said some might wonder why write a history of something that’s only 23 years old. But CIT is unique, and it’s a taonga.
With Jo Ayers, of CIT and Accent Publications, the book was unveiled and blessed. Mrs Ayers also explained how Accent Publications has been folded into the Theological Research Unit as a gift to TRU.
Theologian Fr Neil Darragh presented two “symbols of closure”, one a painting of a kowhai flower, and the other a Maori carving.
Fr Darragh spoke of the painting’s connection to former staff member Sr Ann Gilroy, RSJ, and gave it to Sr Elaine Wainwright, RSM, head of the University of Auckland School of Theology.
Fr Darragh said that when CIT moved out of Marcellin Hall some years ago, the Marist Brothers there gave them the carving. Because CIT would no longer exist, the institute wanted to give it back to the Brothers.
It was received by provincial Br David MacDonald, FMS, who led a waiata, Salve Regina.
The Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, thanked Fr Dunn for his vision and drive, the religious orders, and others who had supported CIT.
The bishop said his prayer and hope is that the work begun through CIT will continue to grow and flourish.