In spite of the threatening clouds — huge and heavy with rain — gathering on the horizon of the Hokianga sky on the morning of Saturday, May 26, a group of more than 30 pilgrims from Te Tai Tokerau also gathered, with trust and hope that Our Lady of the Highway —whom they had come to honour and celebrate — would protect them from the elements, just as she had been protecting travellers and motorists on State Highway 12 for more than 16 years now.

Pilgrims and parishioners, including many children, from Omanaia, Whirinaki, Pakanae, Motukaraka, Motuti and Kerikeri were led by Joan Daniels in reciting the Holy Rosary while approaching the statue of Our Lady.

A welcome to the land was given by Jack Korewha, who is “hosting” the statue of Our Lady on his property, with a heartfelt karanga by Irene Hancy and Jill

Under splendid sun and blue sky (a gift from Our Lady!) the mihi by Mike Korewha, Charlie Walters and Alan Hessell and a few himene (hymns) followed to acknowledge local whanau, those participating and those present only in spirit, but whose hospitality, devotion and generosity of heart have been always there.

Then came the time for praying the Angelus together and by alternating Te Reo and English, bi-cultural origins and identity were affirmed. While everyone easily joined in singing Mō Maria, a slightly less known himene Hail, Holy Queen (from the movie Sister Act) was skilfully and joyfully led (thanks to a voice recording) by a group of 30+ schoolchildren from Hato Hohepa Catholic school in Waitaruke.

There was time to share the history and key facts about the statue of Our Lady, which went from 19th century France to Hawkes Bay and later to the Far North. The statue was restored and re-installed in 2015.