On Easter Sunday, Fr Jun Peralta, SVD, locally known as Pa Anahera, celebrated his last Sunday Masses with the parishioners of the North Hokianga, whom he had served for the last 18 months.

As he was making not his ‘farewells’ but a ka kite ano (see you again) in St Peter’s church (Panguru) in the morning and in Our Lady of Lourdes church (Pawarenga) in the afternoon, he was entrusting an important mission to his flock: “Be the Easter people and take the message of God’s love to the every corner of (your) world”.

At Pawarenga, Pa Anahera baptised and welcomed 14 people into the faith community (babies, children and adults). The small church by the Catholic School of Hata Maria was full to overflowing and the congregation was jubilant with praise.

Fr Jun’s wish was to have the church always as full as it was on that Easter Sunday.

Pa Anahera was acknowledged for his great dedication to his people, his passionate and joyful ministry in Hokianga and the parishioners were sad to see him go.

The people farewelled him with a moving powhiri, many thankful and emotional words and heartfelt waiata. The elders then “handed him over” to his Filipino family and community (which had travelled from Auckland for that celebration) while awaiting the return of their previous parish priest, Fr Richard Cortes, MSP. As called for by Maori hospitality and protocol, the event concluded with a delicious kai.

There were also other significant moments leading to Easter in Te Tai Tokerau (Far North).

Many communities worshipped in ecumenical gatherings witnessing to the world God’s great love for his people.

It was uplifting (though also challenging, given the darkness at the 7am start time) to join Fr Ralph Barcelo, Catholic parishioners and the Anglican community to walk together the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday in Kerikeri.

The event started at Holy Family (Catholic), carrying the big wooden cross through the township of Kerikeri and finished at St James (Anglican) by the Stone Store.

Some early Friday joggers, walkers and passers-by watched, greeted people or even joined in the walk. Children of the Hato Hohepa Catholic School in Waitaruke also walked the Stations of the Cross, guided by local katekita and parishioners, as did the adults at 3pm.

The Anglican pastor of St Thomas church in Kawakawa and his parishioners hosted Catholics from Moerewa-Paihia-Russell and Fr Emile Frische, MHM, and together people prayed and reflected on ten scenes of the Triduum.

And to signal the Resurrection of the Lord and to call local parishioners (and many visitors to the Bay of Islands) to be “Easter people” — Fr Maliu ‘Otutaha had lit the Paschal Candle at the start of the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil at St Paul’s in Paihia.

Wiga Autet is religious education coordinator for Te Tai Tokerau, Catholic Diocese of Auckland.