Kaikoura might have had its road and rail links with the outside world cut off for days after a massive magnitude 7.8 earthquake, but its resourceful parish priest found a way to get into the town to be with his people. Marlborough parish priest Fr Pat McIndoe, CP, managed  to “hitch a ride” on a flight into Kaikoura on November 18, said parish administrator Ginetta Petersen.

Fr McIndoe, who is based in Blenheim, was scheduled to stay in Kaikoura for 10 days, where he will assess what sort of help people there most need, Mrs Petersen said.

She added that the priest’s place on the flight came about as a result of a conversation with a parishioner, a teacher at a Blenheim pre-school. Fr McIndoe expressed his desire to get to Kaikoura.

“She knew somebody, who knew somebody, who said there was a flight going . . . [from] Marlborough Aero Club.” So it was possible to “squeeze him in”.

Fr McIndoe took part in a Kaikoura combined church service involving Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations on November 20. Fr McIndoe celebrated a vigil Mass on November 19 in Kaikoura’s Catholic church.

After the quake, Kaikoura residents, churches and community groups opened their homes, halls and marae to those with nowhere to stay in the aftermath of the earthquake.

One of those who extended hospitality was Patsy Buttle, a former lay pastoral leader in Kaikoura parish, now based in Christchurch, but who still owns a house in Kaikoura. Mrs Buttle told NZ Catholic that a neighbour whose house was damaged in the quake is staying at her residence.

The community is “in very good heart”, she said.

But Mrs Buttle was concerned for the long term economic prospects for Kaikoura, a town dependent on the tourist trade, which has had promises of Government help for businesses after the earthquake.

“Kaikoura is so seasonal, we rely on the summer and weather being good for tourists. That’s what gets people through the winter.”

Sacred Heart Catholic church in Kaikoura appears to have survived the earthquake. There was some  damage to items inside the church, including, it is understood, to Christmas crib figures which tumbled out of a cupboard.

Ministry of Education acting head of sector enablement and support, Susan Howan,
said two ministry staff and two structural engineers arrived in Kaikoura on November 16 and assessed St Joseph’s School as fit to occupy.

“We found that the school has minimal structural damage and staff can now start the clean up process in preparation for opening for students,” Ms Howan said.

“Staff have been offered support through the Employee Assistance Programme and we are available to provide advice and support wherever we can.

“Water tankers and port-a-loos are being sent to the school and we are continuing to work with other agencies to ensure a coordinated longer term plan of support is provided for the school.”

Wellington archdiocese vicar for education Jenny Gordon said her office had been in touch with the principal and the board of trustees chair.

“They are as good as they can be in the circumstances. As far as we know the staff are fine, it is, as you know, a wonderful community, they are all rallying around helping each other and being there and caring for each other,” she said.

The Apostolic Nuncio to New Zealand, Archbishop Martin Krebs, said he was phoned by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, on November 14, who asked for information about the damage caused by the earthquake, in order to convey news to Pope Francis whom he was to meet the same evening.

“Archbishop Gallagher assured the local church and the entire population of the Holy Father’s closeness in prayer in the uncertainty of these days, and especially
to those who suffer from damages done by the quake . . . ,” Archbishop Krebs said.

He added that the nunciature in Wellington did not suffer damage in the earthquake.
At the Vatican, at the end of the Mass at which the Year of Mercy was closed on November 20, Pope Francis took both of Cardinal John Dew’s hands and said to him “I am praying for all the people of New Zealand at this time of the earthquakes”.

Cardinal Dew said it is wonderful to know that the Pope is praying for us. “In turn I assured him that we are also supporting him in prayer.”

The president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishop Patrick Dunn, said on November 18: “On behalf of my brother bishops I would like to thank all those who have sent messages of sympathy, concern, solidarity, prayers, and offers of generosity following the major earthquake on Sunday night and the subsequent aftershocks.”

Bishop Dunn noted the two fatalities caused by the quake, as well as the “mental and emotional toll on people, in particular those who experienced the ongoing  earthquakes in the Canterbury region in recent years”.

“However all of us throughout the country have been heartened by the stories of kindness, generosity and the ways in which people have gone to great lengths to help and support people who have been stranded or displaced from their homes, and visitors to our country.

“Many in the areas most affected face uncertainty over their homes and livelihoods. We ask everyone to keep these people in your prayers.”

Additional reporting by Rowena Orejana.

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