The Archdiocese of Wellington went all out for the World Day of the Poor last month as parishes and organisations arranged a variety of activities that reached out to the vulnerable as well as to those who were experiencing difficulties.
The archdiocese was one of 12 dioceses throughout the world invited to take the lead for this year’s celebration.

Other dioceses included Manila in the Philippines and Bangui, Central African Republic, the United States’ Boston and Europe’s Madrid and Paris. The Pope said he wanted the World Day of the Poor to be a small sign to the world that the Church gives heed to the voice of those living on the margins.

Cardinal John Dew expressed his gratitude to the many people who supported this and organised events and ways to reach out and assist.

“We are all invited, of course, to find opportunities for encounter, dialogue and practical assistance for people on the margins,” he said.

The week-long observance came under the umbrella of “Better off together — He Waka Eke Noa”. It was held from November 12-18. Justice, peace and development advisor Lisa Beech noted that the activities were spread throughout the archdiocese.

“One of the things we really liked about what happened in our archdiocese is that it was quite spread out. It was quite localised,” she said. “We didn’t try to have a big event at the cathedral or anything like that. We tried to make sure that everything was happening
in the local communities.”

Parishes like St Michael’s, Taita and Sts Mary and Joseph of Otaki and Levin, for example, are understood to have donated four and six large boxes of food to food banks, respectively. St Joseph’s, Upper Hutt, with the support of other Hutt churches and organisations, distributed $1000 worth of meat packs. The parish also helped people check their benefit entitlements. Some 125 sausages were given out for lunch.

Vinnies Pop-up Shops 

Vinnies Wellington, Vinnies Kapi Mana and Vinnies Hutt Valley/ Wairarapa worked together to host free shops in their local communities.

Vinnies Wellington communications and marketing development manager Millie Lambess said 902 people came through their shop in Newtown. The shop was set up in an abandoned Caltex station.

“It was a big success. It was a big undertaking that we took on, but with a big team of volunteers we were able to put it together,” she said.

Miss Lambess said that volunteers sorted out items that could be moved to the venue. The items came from Vinnies op-shops as well as from Kiwi Community Assistance, an organisation that takes surplus food produce and hands it out for free.

The New Zealand Police also gave a hand during the moving and setting up of the store.

A couple of buskers came in and provided live music, as two long tables were set up for people to have lunch, which included sausage sizzles, vegetarian nachos and tacos, banana bread, as well as sushi, muffin and coffee from the local Columbus Coffee.

“We had a team of 69 volunteers on the day. They just helped, . . . kept stock rotating and keeping it tidy, cooking the food and serving the food. And just interacting with the community,” Miss Lambess said.

Vinnies Hutt Council also had pop-up shops in Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt and Wainuiomata, while Vinnies Kapi Mana opened one in Levin.

“It was great to get together and work collectively on this event,” Miss Lambess said.

Compassion Soup Kitchen

Cardinal John Dew and the Archdiocese Pastoral Council sponsored a breakfast meal on  November 17 at the Compassion Soup Kitchen.

Compassion Soup Kitchen manager Karen Holland said Cardinal Dew was involved in all aspects of providing and serving the meal.

“It was quite humbling and moving to see him. He was so real,” she said. “He enjoyed meeting the whanau and getting to know them. No job was too menial.”

The Compassion Soup Kitchen is a charity founded by Venerable Suzanne Aubert and owned and run by the Sisters of Compassion for 118 years.

Mrs Holland explained their mission is to allow people in need to live in the community with dignity and they do that by providing breakfast and dinner six days a week.

She believed, though, that the event benefitted the sponsors of the meals who came in and met the “soup kitchen whanau”.

“It may have helped people who came. There’s a lot of misconceptions about people who live in the margins. People make a lot of assumptions,” she said.

Meeting those in need “made it personal for them [sponsors]”, she said. “It was an opportunity to actually engage.”

Fruit cakes for Kaikoura 

Ms Beech said the northern part of the archdiocese also collected 145 fruit cakes for the people in Marlborough.

“When I was there in July, they kind of mentioned that everyone thought things were back to normal now the roads were open again, but there are still lots of people living with the impact of the [2016] earthquake,” she said.

She said sending the fruit cakes was an act of solidarity, of “letting our brothers and sisters know that we were still conscious that they were, perhaps, still having a hard time”.

Among other activities were workshops at Bishop Viard College in Porirua, hosted by Challenge 2000, and a JPD Commission social analysis workshop at which 30 people gathered together for a day-long reflection and analysis based on the experiences of the Upper Hutt and Naenae benefit impacts.

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