by SUE SECONI
One thousand Catholics gathered around the altar to celebrate Mass in Wanganui’s massive War Memorial Hall, heralding the reunification of the three parishes in the city.
Leadership chairman Terry Sullivan, welcoming everyone, asked that the occasion to share faith together be embraced by all, as the outcome was the result of years of planning.
When Bishop Charles Drennan announced the solemn proclamation of the formation of the Catholic Parish of Whanganui — Te Parihi Katorika Ki Whanganui, on Sunday March 8, 2015, everyone spontaneously clapped.
It marked a momentous step in the 164 years since Catholicism was first established with the arrival of the Society of Mary in the settler River City.
The liturgy reflected the multicultural nature and diversity of the new parish, with representatives from the Maori, Filipino, Indian, Dutch and European communities each praying a Prayer of the Faithful in their language.
The Cullinane College choir and band led the popular recessional hymn Our God Reigns, which saw pockets of the congregation clapping and moving to the beat of the thumping bass drums.
In 1966 the city was split into four parishes of Gonville, Castlecliff (both merged in 1991) and Wanganui East, which were each staffed by newly arrived diocesan priests. Wanganui central, including the suburbs of St John’s Hill, Springvale, Aramoho and Durie Hill and the families of the river, was staffed by Society of Mary priests until 2001. Wanganui was, until then, New Zealand’s largest parish.
Bishop Drennan said the reunification of the three parishes into one is not a bureaucratic process of rationalisation.
“It is a choice we have made together: a choice to strengthen our identity in order that we might better pray, better celebrate our sacraments, and better serve the community of Wanganui and beyond,” he said.
Holy Family in Gonville and St Anne’s in Wanganui East will each have a Sunday Mass and St Mary’s will have two Sunday Masses.
Weekday services in each church will either be Liturgy of the Word or Mass.
by SUE SECONI