by PATRICIA BROOKS
The historic church of St Joseph’s Te Puna, Bay of Plenty, was opened as a Door of Mercy by Bishop Steve Lowe on Saturday February 6. The solemn occasion was saddened by the news of the death of Pa Hemi Hekiera, SM, the previous parish priest of Te Puna.
The church doorway was surrounded by white flowers set in garlands of greenery matching the green and white of the church.
Bishop Lowe led the ceremonies with a remembrance of Pa Hekiera, who had laboured long in this church as a missionary of the Lord.
“The Lord has called him and, in the fullness of his mercy, Pa Hemi is now one with God,” the bishop said. “Pa Hemi is remembered as a priest of the Maori; he is remembered as a priest who was exuberant about the special character of what this nation is about, that we might be as one people.” In reflecting on the Door of Mercy, Bishop Lowe said it was significant that the door was made of wood; Christ was born in a wooden stable with a wooden manger, and he died on a wooden cross.
The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on a table made from wood.
Jesus learnt the trade of carpentry from Joseph, and the hands that built, healed and embraced were nailed to a wooden cross. But from that cross he said the words of mercy: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” And to the good thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. “This is the mercy we are called to embrace,” Bishop Lowe said. “That we might be merciful, that we might be one.”
The liturgy that included remembrance of Baptism when the stone font used in the first church in Otumoetai (built 1842), was blessed, and the solemn proclamation to open the Door of Mercy, concluded with the National Anthem.
Pope Francis decreed the Holy Year of Mercy beginning on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 last year. The next Door of Mercy in Hamilton diocese will be opened on February 21 at Rangiaowhia at 2pm. Pilgrims will meet at the Rangiaowhia Hall.
by PATRICIA BROOKS