Because Wellington’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is closed for earthquake-strengthening, Karori’s St Teresa’s church officially became the Pro-Cathedral of the archdiocese at a special ceremony on Saturday, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

Cardinal John Dew officiated at the 5.30pm vigil Mass, when the decree was promulgated.

The Otari parish’s Tongan community had taken the “cathedra” or bishop’s chair from the cathedral to St Teresa’s.  They had wrapped it in special tapa cloth for safe travelling. During the ceremony, two respected elders from the community carried the Book of the Gospels to the sanctuary where they handed it over to one of the youngest members, symbolising the passing on of God’s Word from one generation to another.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8) was chosen as it is under that title that Wellington archdiocese is entrusted to Mary’s protection. Cardinal Dew read the Act of Consecration of the archdiocese to Mary, a prayer that was first prayed by Bishop Viard in 1845, following an earthquake in Wellington.  Since then, the prayer is prayed at the cathedral on that day, and in parishes on the nearest Sunday.

A happy coincidence was that the first reading that night was Baruch 5:1-9, which includes the passage “Peace through integrity” (Baruch 5:4), a reading that is only used in the Church lectionary every three years. That is also the motto of Cardinal Dew, inscribed on his “cathedra” or bishop’s chair.

It was a wonderful occasion, as cathedral and Otari parishioners joined together to celebrate the occasion. They were joined by six priests, all of whom had connections with the cathedral or Otari parishes.  The evening concluded with a cake-cutting and some refreshments to celebrate the occasion.

Every diocese and archdiocese must have a cathedral church, which is the official seat of the bishop or archbishop.

According to the Otari parish website, Cardinal Dew wrote in a notice that if a cathedral is under construction, or is being renovated, repaired or seismically strengthened – as is the current situation in the archdiocese – then the bishop usually proclaims another church to be the pro-cathedral of the diocese for a period of time.

Cardinal Dew consulted the Archdiocesan Council of Priests in September about the possibility of a pro-cathedral.

“After considering a few options including evaluating space and car parking for Archdiocesan occasions, I asked the Council of Priests if they would agree with me naming the parish church of St Teresa’s, Kārori, as the pro-cathedral of the archdiocese,” Cardinal Dew said.

The council agreed and Fr Ron Bennett, Otari parish priest, readily accepted this request.