by WIGA AUTET
“Bishop Pompallier had a greatest gift to give, a gift of Jesus.”
With these words Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton greeted the faithful at Totara Point in the
Hokianga on Epiphany Sunday, January 8.
“Today is about arrivals, gifts and losing oneself” — he told those who gathered to commemorate the 179th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated on New Zealand soil in
1838 by Bishop Pompallier (on January 13, 1838).
More than one hundred worshippers from local parishes of Te Tai Tokerau attended, but there
were also a few visitors from Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton and some from as far as Tahiti, joining Bishop Lowe, Pa Henare Tate, Fr Richard Cortes, MSP, Fr Bernard Dennehy, Fr Kerry Prendeville, SM, and Deacon David Hotere for the commemorative Mass.
Pa Tate of Motuti welcomed everyone and spoke of his very first time at Totara Point when
— while still in the womb of his mother — he ”participated” in the centennial Mass in 1938.
He then organised the celebrations of the 150th anniversary, and had hardly missed the commemorative Mass ever since.
Bishop Lowe in his homily spoke about Bishop Pompallier and his “losing himself” to what
was familiar and known to him in France, embarking on a long (more than two years) and dangerous sea journey towards the unknown, and finally arriving in Aotearoa in January,
1838 with “the biggest gift”: that of Jesus Christ.
Together with the Marist missionaries “they were willing to take the risk, to follow, to find, to
see”. Like the Wise Men from the day’s Gospel, continued Bishop Lowe, who followed a star to arrive, pay homage and offer gifts to Jesus Christ — a King who arrived humbly, as a vulnerable baby and was laid in a simple manger — we too arrive here today to lose ourselves in his humility, to worship him with our own gifts, to partake in his Body and
Blood, and so to receive the gift of everlasting life.
At the end of the Mass, and before the traditional hospitality offered to all by the local community, Fr Prendeville re-commissioned for the next two years the katekita (catechists)
for the north and south Hokianga, as well as the ministers of the Word and the extraordinary
ministers of the Eucharist.
Bishop Lowe concluded with a wish to see more people from all six dioceses of New
Zealand gathering at Totara Point for future commemorations of the 1838 Mass celebrated by Bishop Pompallier “who was a bishop of the whole Aotearoa”.
(In 2002, Bishop Pompallier’s remains were re-interred under the altar at St Mary’s church in