WELLINGTON — Archbishop John Dew has encouraged parishes in the archdiocese to plan something special to mark the Year of Faith.
Commemorating the courageous life and death of one of their own, Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, was Johnsonville’s Sts Peter and Paul’s response.
John Kleinsman, one of the team that coordinated the three-day event in late June, said commemorating the life and death of Fr Douglas was a way of highlighting someone who is a source of inspiration and a relevant role model for people living out their faith today.
The organisers wanted an event that would provide opportunities for prayer and reflection on what it means to hear the call to mission in the 21st century.
“The point of focusing on the life and death of Francis Douglas was as much about letting his life inform us and pose questions to each of us about being missionaries as it was about recalling the faith witness and martyrdom of a wonderful faith-filled and courageous man,” Dr Kleinsman said.

Nieces and nephews of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, from left, John Douglas, Jo Benaki, Margaret Carson, Patrick Scullin, Maria McIElroy and Margaret Marshall.

The event included an opening liturgy celebrated by Archbishop John Dew in which a newly framed portrait of Fr Douglas was blessed before it went on display in the church. Other events included: parishioners Helen Rook, Steve Tamarapa, Miriam Vender and Ewen Laurenson sharing their personal understanding and practice of mission, a school Mass celebrated by Archbishop John Dew for St Brigid’s, Johnsonville, and St Benedict’s, Khandallah, and veneration and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. Columban Fathers Michael Gormly and Patrick O’Shea spoke on mission. Members of Challenge 2000 decorated the church and provided an inspiring drama.
Members of Fr Douglas ’s family — including his nieces and nephews — came from as far as Auckland and Hawke’s Bay to the commemoration. The Filipino community, along with the Philippines Ambassador to New Zealand, Virginia Benavidez, took part in the Saturday evening Mass, which was also the celebration of the parish’s two patrons.
Dr Kleinsman said a personal highlight was the way the three days drew in so many different people. “It was an event that brought us together as a community of faith and made me feel so proud to be Catholic.”
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