There were 600 Māori Catholics from throughout the North Island at Aquinas College in Tauranga over Easter for the annual Hui Aranga.

Eleven teams from the Hokianga to Wellington attended the event. Spirits were not dampened by the onset of Cyclone Cook, with people arriving before the worst of the storm, Fr Phil Cody, SM, told NZ Catholic.

But the cyclone did see some adaptation of the programme on the first evening, he said. There were eight baptisms at Easter at the Hui Aranga, with those baptised coming from the Ohakune area.

Bishop Stephen Lowe of Hamilton officiated at Good Friday and on Easter Sunday and Bishop Denis Browne was also able to attend on Good Friday.

But, Fr Cody, noted, there was only one Māori priest present, Fr Steve Hancy from Palmerston North diocese.

“This illustrated the need for more Māori clergy and catechists,” Fr Cody said.

The late Pa Henare Tate was honoured at the Hui Aranga several times, notably for his bringing together of Māori spirituality and Christian practice.

Hawke’s Bay — Waipatu took out the senior kapa haka competition. Top in the overall aggregate  score for the competitions, which included sports, a religious quiz and choir singing, was a Wellington club called Nga Karere.

Candles lit from the fire of the Easter vigil were taken home by clubs to their own regions as was water blessed at the vigil.

When these candles are lit or water is used it is a reminder of the dying and rising of Christ.

A statue of Mary, the mother of the Hui Aranga, was also a focal point during the gathering.

The Hui Aranga next year will be in Ohakune/Ruapehu. The statue and a special cross were handed over to the hosts for next year’s Hui Aranga.

Aquinas College principal Ray Scott told local media it was a great thing for the school to take part in.

“It’s a very significant celebration for Catholic Māori iwi around the North Island,” he said. Mr Scott said use had been made of the gym and school classrooms were cleared for the accommodation.

It was reportedly the third time Aquinas College had hosted the Hui Aranga.

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