Several Gisborne parishioners prepared for weeks to make a pilgrimage to a holy door open for a day at St Bede’s church in Matawai, on the road between Gisborne and Opotiki. There was delight when Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton agreed to the Gisborne parish’s request for a holy door, as the nearest official one was a three hour drive away.

In the weeks leading up to the pilgrimage to Matawai on November 8, parishioners prepared spiritually.

They were invited to undertake their own mini “DIY” pilgrimage, stepping aside from normal activity, reflecting on individual internal journeys, giving thanks to God and inviting God to come closer.

During a Mass on the feast of All Saints, those registered to make the pilgrimage to St Bede’s were given a blessing of commendation.

Pilgrim shells, symbolising the spiritual and physical journey being undertaken, were given to those on the pilgrimage, who were invited to wear them in times of prayer. The shell is Gisborne parish’s symbol. The pilgrim shells were painted blue in honour of Our Lady and each had a cross to reflect the Year of Mercy.

Pilgrims were encouraged to claim a few minutes each day to enter into silence, to hold in prayer those parishioners who couldn’t be at Matawai on November 8, and to pray the Mercy Prayer.

Pilgrims were also encouraged to invite family, friends and fellow parishioners to hold and quietly bless their pilgrim shell. As part of the requirements for obtaining a plenary indulgence or as part of their own spiritual preparation, in the days before November 8 pilgrims took the opportunity to receive Reconciliation sacramentally.

On the day of pilgrimage, Bishop Lowe gave a special blessing to pilgrims at St Mary Star of the Sea church in Gisborne, and a busload set off on the one hour journey. On the bus there was a mixture of guided prayer, hymns and reflection.

The pilgrims were dropped off on the edge of Matawai village and were led in
prayer and song by Bishop Lowe, Msgr Frank Eggleton and Fr Jack Wiremu Smith
as they processed to St Bede’s.

At the closed door of St Bede’s, Bishop Lowe undertook the ritual of consecration.
Pilgrims were sprinkled with holy water as they walked through the holy door. The ritual was completed with the renewal of baptismal promises.

Morning tea in the local memorial hall across the road followed, and then the pilgrims returned to the church for Mass.

After Mass there was more food and drink, including wonderfully prepared barbecue sausage sandwiches.

After the bus journey back to Gisborne, the pilgrims received a final blessing at St Mary Star of the Sea church.

In preparing for this day, the pilgrims had been reminded that a pilgrimage “forms bonds of kinship reminding us that even though we may start out alone, we need others . . . these become companions on our journey home to the Heart of God”.

Pilgrims agreed that the Matawai pilgrimage was a great way to form bonds of kinship in the parish.

— Sr Meg Hills was one of the pilgrims who went to Matawai.