De La Salle Brother Sir Patrick Lynch looked on as Br Lewis Harwood made his final vows as a Brother of the Christian Schools (De La Salle brother) at St Therese Church in Mangere East.
It was a very touching moment for Sir Br Patrick to witness this final profession as it was the first for his religious congregation in 20 years in New Zealand and Australia.
“It’s very encouraging for people like me. I’ve been a brother for 55 years. So, honestly, this ceremony is just so uplifting. I haven’t really experienced something like it for 30 years,” he said.
On the morning of February 11, a large number of students from De La Salle College, representatives of John Paul II College (Rotorua) and Francis Douglas Memorial College (New Plymouth), St Therese parishioners and Br Lewis’s family from Australia gathered to celebrate.
Br Lewis said he was adamant that the celebration was to be a shared one.
It reflected the multicultural dimension of his profession.
It started with a karanga. Erin Fa’aui, from Mangere parish, called the visitors in and Tania Reti, a teacher at De La Salle College, responded on Br Lewis’s behalf.
During the penitential rite, Br Lewis knelt before the altar where he was covered with a fine mat.
De La Salle religion teacher Denis Tutaka later explained that this was an Ifoga, a Samoan cultural reconciliation.
“The covering of the mat symbolises the covering of our shame and sin as we come before God begging for forgiveness. The opening of the mat by the celebrant symbolises God’s forgiveness of our sins and opening to his love and mercy,” he said.
A Tongan group led the singing of the Gloria. Towards the end of the Mass, De La Salle year 13 students performed the haka.
Pa Peter Tipene, one of those who concelebrated the Mass, gave the special blessing.
Fr Brian Prendeville, SM, in his homily, said he hoped Br Lewis’s final vows would encourage
more young men and women to “follow the science of the cross”.
“That is where all life happens,” he said.
Br Lewis told those who were gathered he felt ready to take on the mission “but I need you
in my life, your prayers and your support”.
He said that on his 30-day retreat in preparation for the final vows, he spoke to a Carmelite nun who started her religious life 58 years ago.
“ She’s seen all the changes and all the history,” he said. “She said, ‘the one thing you must learn, young Lewis, is that times get tough. Times get tough. Focus on Christ’.”
Br Lewis promised, “I’ll do my best.”
An Australian, Br Lewis worked as a police officer before joining the brothers.
Br Sir Patrick said the De La Salle brothers’ provinces which included New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea joined with the Pakistan one four years ago. There was one other
profession in January in Islamabad.
“Now that we’ve joined with these other countries, it’s bringing on a lot of younger brothers” he said. “We’re a lot more global in our outreach and we’re working with other countries.”