After 25 years of service, Auckland Eucharistic Convention director John Porteous is stepping down from this role.
Mr Porteous said both he and his wife, Beth, felt it is time to pass on the work to a new generation.
“It does need a change of leadership in order to continue on. It will be nice that something we did will carry on even if we pass away,” he said.
The convention was the brainchild of Australian Kevin Morley who approached then Auckland Bishop Denis Browne with the idea. Bishop Browne tapped Mr Porteous to carry out the Auckland part of the event.
“He [Kevin Morley] had a vision to bring international speakers to Australia and asked me to help in the New Zealand one in 1994. Once the initial concept was done and dusted, we received a lot of positive comments,” Mr Porteous said.
He said Bishop Browne told him they couldn’t ignore all the letters that asked for a repeat of the convention for the following year. What should have been a one-time event became an annual convention that went from strength to strength.
“Bishop Browne talked to me about the whole thing. He said, ‘concentrate on the Eucharist and you won’t go wrong’,” Mr Porteous recalled.
Mr Porteous said one of biggest traps in organising a convention like this is that groups “slip into an agenda”.
“We have the discipline of obedience to the bishops, Bishop Browne, then Bishop [Patrick] Dunn. We tried to keep it middle of the road. And whatever we do, the bishop has to approve,” he said.
Mr Porteous said by focusing on the Eucharist, convention organisers learned to navigate through the pitfalls, found the discipline to make the convention work, and learned how to deal with pressure and to trust in the Lord.
“It’s a major event, definitely a trust thing. It’s like Peter stepping off the boat. You have to trust. But the reward we can’t quantify. We have people telling us how it changed their lives,” he said.
Mr Porteous noted that there has never been an event where something needs to be done and there was no one there to do it.
“We’re committed to the doing and he [God] is doing the providing,” he said.
Mr Porteous said when it comes to inviting speakers, he looked for people who have a certain dynamism and a special charism.
“Something happened in their life that they had to overcome and they found a way to deal [with it with] faith,” he said.
He said he was watching the news when he saw Diane Foley, mother of journalist James Foley who was killed by ISIL. Mr Porteous wrote to Ms Foley’s parish priest to ask if she would be interested in speaking at the convention.
“Somehow, every speaker that comes in every year fits,” he said, adding that the messages of the speakers are still heard after the convention as they load the videos up on YouTube.
“The evangelisation of the videos that are out there continues.”
Mr Porteous said there had been a lot of changes in the make-up of the participants who attend the convention. Some of the early ones aren’t around anymore.
“We have a lot of different ethnic groups and it’s probably impossible to bring in a weekend [of] speakers that they all can relate to,” he said.
Again, he said, this is where trust in the Lord and focus on the Eucharist comes in.
“It’s a special relationship that the Eucharist can have in our own faith. It’s that reality that we can highlight: discovering the depth, reality and respect for the Eucharist,” he said.