The annual Mass commemorating Bishop Pompallier’s first Mass here in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1838 was celebrated on Sunday, January 14, at Totara Point in the Hokianga.

In 2018, it was a particularly poignant Mass as three of the significant kaumatua of the region had died in the preceding year. Pa Henare Tate, instigator of the return of Pompallier’s remains, died on April 1. Ossie Peri, esteemed elder in Kaitaia died in early January, 2018, and katekita Pat Taylor died in December. It was really strange celebrating the Pompallier commemoration Mass without Pa Tate orchestrating the event in his inimitable fashion. Henare Te Wake and Pa Jun Peralta together were the MCs.

However the celebrant was Archbishop Martin Krebs, the apostolic nuncio, representing the Pope as he told the assembly. It was his first visit to the “cradle of the faith” in this country, and he brought the Pope’s greetings, and at the end of Mass presented rosaries blessed by the Pope to the katekita. Also present among the concelebrants was Fr David Kennerley, SM, the Marist superior who was present to acknowledge the departure of the Marist community from the Mid-North apostolate, where they have been for 28 years. That departure added to the poignancy of the occasion. Fr Kerry Prendeville, SM, at his last Mass before the Marists leave at the end of January, used the occasion to install a new katekita, Douglas Jacobs, and to extol the ministry of the katekita which he together with Pa Tate had revolutionised in Te Tai Tokerau.

Archbishop Krebs acknowledged the coming of the missionaries to the “ends of the earth” but reminded the assembly that they had to be missionaries too, they were to be visibly Christian in this increasingly secular country. As an example he exhorted the congregation to make submissions on the euthanasia/ assisted suicide issue.

Also present was Connie Hassan, whose great-grandmother Ngapiu was present at the centenary jubilee of the first Mass.

Ngapiu was 104 at the time and had actually met Bishop Pompallier. At that celebration she was presented to the apostolic delegate of the time. As her direct descendant, Connie had her photo taken with the current delegate, Archbishop Krebs.