More Marlborough and Kaikoura people are becoming baptised since the new Star of the Sea parish was shaken by earthquakes, parish priest Fr John Pearce, CP, says.

Kaikoura was the epicentre of the 6.8 magnitude earthquake on November 14 two years ago, and most of the Star of the Sea parish felt the full force of the shake and later aftershocks.

Last year, there were 53 children baptised, compared with 46 the previous year and 43 the year before that. There have been 18 already in the first three months of this year, with two more already booked.

“There has been a bit of a run,” Fr Pearce said.

Rather than the earthquakes putting the fear of God into residents, the priest puts the rising trend down to the increased pastoral care and community engagement that has been happening across the parish.

Star of the Sea merges three parishes and seven churches, including Havelock’s Sacred Heart church, Picton’s St Joseph’s, Blenheim’s St Mary’s, Renwick’s St Frances de Sales, Seddon’s Immaculate Heart, Ward’s St Peter Chanel’s and Kaikoura’s Sacred Heart.

As part of that merger, two SMSM nuns — Sr Maureen Connor and Sr Frances Anne Remnant — provide pastoral care in Kaikoura, along with St Joseph’s School principal Judith Ford.

Fr Pearce said Mrs Ford and Sr Maureen recently ran a coffee morning for parents to talk about the sacraments of reconciliation, confirmation, and communion for their children.

“Out of that, five kids at the school want to be baptised. One parent asked for a child at school and two at preschool to be baptised. They continued on to ask if their husband and they could get baptised as well.

“Why did it happen?

“Because they were offered hospitality and continue
to build a good relationship.”

Another person came in to see Fr Pearce about the laying of ashes for a parent and also asked for his child to be baptised while the family was all gathered in Marlborough for the committal ceremony.

Fr Pearce said the increase in baptisms is a sign the effect of merging of the parishes has stabilised.

New principals being at the two parish schools is also increasing activity.

“Numbers in both schools are going up — that’s a sign of people wanting to belong. Baptism is a sacrament of belonging, it’s the first step of Christian initiation.”

And he’s not ruling out the earthquakes’ impact.

Natural disasters can help people to re-evaluate their life values and make them look at what’s important to them.